NJBIA and the Eastern Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters are supporting a new bipartisan bill that removes key registered apprenticeship program requirements currently needed to bid on public work contracts.
Bill S-3635/A-5279, introduced by Sens. Troy Singleton (D-7) and Steven Oroho (R-24) and Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly (D-35) also sets apprenticeship standards for prevailing wage projects.
The legislation amends the updated “New Jersey Prevailing Wage Act,” signed into law in January 2022 by Gov. Phil Murphy.
While the previous legislation was well intended to increase training opportunities in the building trades, it has had the unintended consequence of severely limiting the ability of small businesses to bid on public works contracts by requiring them to participate in a registered apprenticeship program.
“This is a positive bill that will benefit both business, labor groups and taxpayers,” said NJBIA Vice President of Government Affairs Alexis Bailey. “The current law created an onerous apprenticeship requirement for small business contractors, which essentially shuts them out from bidding on public contracts unless they had the resources to participate in an aggregated apprenticeship program.
“By removing this requirement, competition in the market will improve, resulting in lower-cost projects for the state and less burden for the taxpayer. And small business contractors will no longer be cut off from a significant source of potential revenue. We thank the sponsors for their support and look forward to working with the Legislature to advance the bill.”
“The previous legislation was intended to increase the number of apprentices necessary to meet the future demands of the construction industry, putting construction companies in a position to bid future work while ensuring they had a readily available, reliable, trained, and productive workforce,” said EASRCC Assistant Executive Secretary-Treasurer Anthony Abrantes.
“Unfortunately, because the bill required companies be affiliated with an apprenticeship program to bid public work, it put many employers, including small, minority, women and veteran-owned businesses in a vulnerable position.”
“In some cases, employers faced exorbitant fees to be affiliated with apprenticeship programs just so they could bid on public work. Consequently, the unintended impact of this law hurt small businesses and undermined the value of longstanding registered apprenticeship programs,” Abrantes added.
“Removing the apprentice requirement to bid public work will allow employers, business, and labor groups to take a more holistic approach to addressing the needs of the construction industry while still maintaining opportunities to bolster its future workforce.”
Prior to the signing of the Bill S-4207 last year, New Jersey small businesses had already faced barriers when bidding on public works contracts.
Following the creation of the apprenticeship program requirement in 2019, more than 1,900 potential contractors were initially denied bidding on public works contracts in 2020, with most of them losing out on a contract for failing to participate in an apprenticeship program.
“With federal infrastructure dollars continuing to come into the state, it is beneficial for New Jersey to have more eligible contractors, not fewer, to execute incoming projects,” Bailey said.