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NJBIA testified in support of a bipartisan bill on Thursday that would help small businesses by removing registered apprenticeship program requirements currently needed to bid on public work contracts.

Bill S-3635, co-sponsored by Sens. Troy Singleton (D-7) and Steven Oroho (R-24), would also set apprenticeship standards for prevailing wage projects. The bill was scheduled for vote in the Senate Labor Committee, but after hearing testimony the committee held the bill without taking action.

The legislation would amend the updated “New Jersey Prevailing Wage Act,” which was signed into law in January 2022 by Gov. Phil Murphy.

While the previous legislation was well intentioned 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,” Frank said. “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.

“Ideally, it really doesn’t make sense to require a one- or two-person family business to participate in an apprenticeship program when they will never grow beyond their small family operation and hire anyone that needs apprentice training.

“So, 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.”

Prior to the signing of the Bill S-4207 last year, small businesses in New Jersey 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,” Frank said.