SAN FRANCISCO -- Enactment and signing of AB 921 authored by Assembly member Fred Keeley promises to improve the quality of the state's 60-year-old apprenticeship system which currently covers more than 56,000 apprentices.
That legislation, now identified as chapter 903 in the government code, requires that apprentices only be employed as apprentices by employers who adhere to standards established by the Division of Apprenticeship Standards, a division of the Department of Industrial Relations (DIR). The legislation mandates the division to audit each apprenticeship program in the state every five years to ensure quality training and skill building.
In addition, the legislation would cement the relationship between the California Apprenticeship Council (CAC) and apprenticeship programs by requiring that CAC members actually sponsor apprenticeship programs. The council is now composed of 17 members, six from employer organizations, six from employee organizations and two from the general public. Three of the 17 members are ex officio.
"These reforms will help us increase the number of trained apprentices and develop higher quality apprenticeship programs," said Steve Smith, DIR director. "Apprenticeship programs not only improve the lives of apprentices but are critical to providing a well-trained workforce and prosperity in our communities."
Signing of the legislation by Gov. Gray Davis occurred as DIR increased its efforts to expand access to the state's apprenticeship system, which offers California youths a combination of workplace- and classroom-based learning to develop skills in their chosen craft. The governor, the first in more than a decade to increase funding for the state's apprenticeship system, also signed a proclamation declaring October "Apprenticeship Month" in honor of the 60th anniversary of the Shelley-Maloney Apprentice Standards Act, legislation that formalized the state's apprenticeship system. The department has produced a 28-minute videotape about apprenticeships that it is distributing to high school counselors throughout the state and has escalated its efforts to promote apprenticeships through its Web site, job fairs and conferences throughout the state.
Currently, the state's apprenticeship system not only trains high school graduates and young adults changing careers, but also former welfare recipients developing skills for new jobs.
California enrolls the largest number of apprentices in the country and is one of a few states that has expanded available apprenticeships beyond the traditional construction trades into such industries as manufacturing, culinary, mechanics and health care.
Editor's note: Apprentices employed in the construction, culinary and health care industries throughout the state are available for interviews. For more information about the state's apprentices, see the Department of Industrial Relations Web site at www.dir.ca.gov under "What's New?"