Casinos Could Hire Skilled Workers from Proposed Federal Apprenticeship Program

Posted on: November 22, 2020, 06:01h. 

Last updated on: November 22, 2020, 10:00h.

Las Vegas is among the tourist destinations nationally that could benefit from a pending federal bill that would create about a million apprenticeships across the US economy.

Las Vegas has a lot of unemployment due to the coronavirus pandemic
US Rep. Dina Titus (D, Nev.) speaks during a Congressional committee hearing earlier this year. She is taking credit for including the hospitality and tourism sectors in a pending bill that would expand apprenticeship opportunities nationally. (Image: Nevada Appeal)

The proposal, HR 8294 — known as the National Apprenticeship Act of 2020 — was approved by the House of Representatives on Friday following a 246-140 vote. It still needs Senate approval, and it is unclear if the Senate will act on the proposal during the lame-duck session.

As it was being reviewed and drafted, US Rep. Dina Titus (D-Nev.), who is co-chair of the Congressional Travel and Tourism Caucus, worked to include apprenticeships for the tourism and hospitality industry in the bill.

These apprenticeships will provide workers in Southern Nevada access to paid, on-the-job learning opportunities for careers in hospitality and tourism,” Titus said in a statement explaining her support for the proposal. “At a time when so many in Las Vegas are struggling, my proposal will offer new pathways to the middle class.”

She acknowledged the bill has a way to go before it gets enacted. “The Senate must not stand in the way of creating these high-paying career opportunities,” Titus said.

The original legislation was proposed by US Rep. Susan Davis (D-Calif.) It has many co-sponsors.

Proposal Would Cost $3.5B

As it now reads, the legislation would lead to spending about $3.5 billion over five years. It would create actual apprenticeships, as well as apprenticeship-type programs for younger people interested in careers.

Titus notes that 94 percent of people nationally who complete registered apprenticeships are employed after completing the program, based on data from the US Labor Department. They earn an average yearly starting salary of above $70,000.

By providing them a pathway to a career, it means they will not need various government forms of financial support, say supporters of the bill.

It is unclear how many people living in Southern Nevada would be able to go through an apprenticeship program under the bill. It also is unclear how much of the money will go to the actual apprenticeship program and how much will be spent on related bureaucratic costs.

Among those who opposed the bill was Rep. Fred Keller (R-Penn.) In theory, he backs more apprenticeships.

But he believes the current bill does not meet the needs of smaller and mid-size businesses. He suspects the current bill also would tend to benefit union-related apprenticeships.

Las Vegas Struggles with Unemployment

As of September, Las Vegas had an unemployment rate of 14.8 percent, based on data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Nevada had an unemployment rate of 9.15 percent in September. These rates are among the highest in the US.

Much of the unemployment was tied to the economic downturn associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Many workers at casinos, hotels, and restaurants in Southern Nevada were either fired or furloughed.

Further layoffs are possible, especially if new coronavirus restrictions are placed on casinos, such as reducing their hours or shuttering them. Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) may reveal new COVID-19 directives this week, or opt to not add further restrictions on businesses.

He closed the state’s casinos for months starting in March as a way to curb the spread of the coronavirus. The shuttering led many unemployed workers to wait in lines for food donations and to rely heavily on federal or state relief programs.

In September, the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA) admonished in a message aimed at members of Congress that 67 percent of US hotels cannot last another six months without federal assistance. Already, MGM Resorts has permanently laid off some 18,000 positions nationwide.

Titus’ effort to include the hospitality and tourism sectors in the apprenticeship bill was backed by the AHLA and the Culinary Workers Union Local 226.