Starting in January: New apprenticeship rules for schools, higher-ed, DES projects

As a result of legislation passed in 2018, new rules effective Jan. 1, 2020 will impact apprenticeship utilization requirements on contracts awarded by the state (other than WSDOT), school districts and state four-year institutions of higher education.

The 2018 legislation (HB 1849) said that the awarding agency of the public work contract, within existing resources, must monitor contractor and subcontractor apprenticeship hours.  Contracts must specify that apprenticeship utilization goals should be met, monetary incentives for meeting the goals, monetary penalties for not meeting the goals, and an expected cost value included in the bid associated with meeting the goal.  The contractor shall report any noncompliance no later than the final project acceptance to the Department of Labor and Industries.

In addition, the legislation says contractors may not be required to exceed the apprenticeship utilization requirements (e.g., general contractors can’t require subcontractors to exceed the apprenticeship utilization goal of 15 percent).

The legislation was spearheaded by the Washington State Building and Construction Trades Council (WSBCT) as the Council felt that non-WSDOT public agencies were doing a poor job of implementing and enforcing apprenticeship utilization requirements. 

The original bill imposed apprenticeship utilization requirements on all contractors and subcontractors individually and imposed a one-year debarment penalty for failing to meet the 15 percent mandate.  AGC opposed this version but reverted to neutral following adoption of amendments supported by AGC that exempted WSDOT, removed the explicit language applying to all contractors and subs and replaced department penalties with financial incentives and disincentives.

The WSBCT has said this approach is “somewhat experimental and will require monitoring…The responsibility of awarding agencies for reporting apprentice utilization to L&I is detailed and the law flags the contractor portal of the L&I website as a place for contractors to report apprenticeship hours.  Data collection will be key to next steps establishing penalties if the incentive/penalty system under HB 1849 does not produce results.”

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