The following is a media release from the State Auditor’s office submitted to SOURCE.
BOSTON – After an audit conducted by her office showed the Division of Apprentice Standards (DAS) was not ensuring state-regulated apprenticeship programs met established quality standards, State Auditor Suzanne M. Bump, a former Secretary of Labor for the Commonwealth, is calling on the agency to expand oversight and staffing to address the problems.
DAS is required to conduct a review of all new apprentice sponsors at the end of their first year in the program and at least once every five years after that.
The audit, which examined the period July 1, 2015 through December 31, 2017, shows DAS did not conduct any of these reviews for the sponsors Bump’s office examined.
The audit notes this could result in apprentices not receiving the training they need to successfully compete for careers in their fields of study. Apprenticeships provide participants with hands-on work-based training, in which they earn a salary while gaining valuable on-the-job experience.
“When a Massachusetts resident enters a registered apprenticeship, they should do so with the confidence that they will complete that program with knowledge, skills, and experience to help them secure a good-paying job. But poor oversight by DAS, partly driven by limited staff resources, has raised questions about the quality of training provided by apprentice sponsors,” Bump said of the audit. “I’m encouraged by the initial steps DAS reports it has taken to address the issues we identified, and I urge continued action to restore trust in this important program to assure participants that they are receiving high-quality on-the-job training they can use throughout their careers.”
Bump’s audit also found similar problems related to DAS oversight of development and implementation of affirmative action programs by sponsors. During the audit period, DAS only reviewed one of the 90 sponsors that had established a required affirmative action plan.
Finally, the audit found DAS apprentice agreements, which are used by program sponsors to enroll workers in their programs, were often missing required information, such as number of hours of instruction to be provided, complaint resolution processes, credit to be earned, and names and signatures of sponsor representatives.
To address these problems, Bump calls on DAS to implement policies, procedures, and monitoring protocols. She also encourages the agency to allocate additional resources to increase staffing in these areas and, if financial resources are not available, seek additional funding from the Legislature.
The recently enacted budget for fiscal year 2020 included a funding increase for the Department of Labor Standards (DLS), which DAS indicated will partially be used to hire two additional full-time staff members at DAS.
DAS, a unit within DLS, is responsible for overseeing training programs provided by sponsoring employers that operate apprentice programs in the Commonwealth. It also works to promote the apprentice program to industries that have not traditionally offered apprenticeships.
During the audit period, DAS employed seven staff members.