What would you call a taxpayer-funded state program that covers the costs to “upskill” employees for employers who can depend on the Technical College System of Georgia for training– and can then pay the employer $50,000 upon completion of his employee’s instruction? What would you call this initiative if there were no process in place to exclude either illegal alien employees or employers from benefitting?  

Proponents call it the ‘Registered Apprenticeship Program.’ It’s yet another “workforce development” scheme. 

 “A Registered Apprenticeship Program (RAP) is a robust & comprehensive training model that helps employers transform and develop entry-level employees into high-skilled talent” explains the TCSG website.  And the RAP is part of and funded by the High Demand Career Initiative (HCDI) program.  

The HDCI is best explained by Gov. Brian Kemp: “During the 2022 legislative session, Governor Kemp and lawmakers partnered to pass SB 379, representing a historic investment in apprenticeships in Georgia through the HDCI Program. The HDCI Program awards up to $50,000 in funding to Georgia businesses to upskill workers through registered apprenticeships and increase skilled talent within Georgia’s high-demand industries,” went a November 2022, Kemp office media release. 

RAP a magnet for illegal immigrants  

But consider this.  “Undocumented immigrants can participate in the Registered Apprenticeship Program” says  Kimberly Burgess, Apprenticeship Coordinator at TCSG’s Coastal Pines Technical College in a response to our inquiry. 

And H1B workers are participating in the RAP/HDCI program according to Danny Mitchell, HDCI program manager in TCSG’s Office of Workforce Development. For the uninitiated, “the H-1B visa is a nonimmigrant work visa that allows U.S. employers to hire foreign workers with specialized skills to work in the United States for a specific period of time” (boundless.com).  

This writer will rely on more sophisticated minds to enlighten us on how taxpayer dollars used to train foreigners here temporarily somehow represents “a historic investment” in Georgia’s future workforce.  

In 2022, when no exclusion for black market labor or illegal alien employers could be found in the then-pending SB 379, I emailed my concerns to lead sponsor Sen. Brian Strickland and various key legislators including Rep. Chuck Martin, the House sponsor. Martin is Chairman of the House Higher Education Committee where the measure was heard after it breezed through  the Senate. 

Strickland did not reply. After the measure passed out of his committee, Martin sent me an email: “taking a look at all aspects prior to Rules.” (Full House vote record here). 

Again, on December 1, I asked Strickland and Martin to cite language in SB 379 or a verification system in the RAP that would address excluding illegal aliens as participants. In his reply, Martin suggested that illegal aliens would somehow be disqualified because state apprentices must have registered with the U.S. Dept. of Labor Office of Apprenticeship. But the U.S. DOL Apprenticeship Program registration/agreement application does not even require a Social Security Number.  

He also cited a January 2023 USDOL bulletin (SB 379 passed in March 2022) that clarifies the apprenticeship program is open to non-U.S. citizens and that RAP sponsors should ensure that “all individuals who are eligible to work in the U.S. are afforded an opportunity to participate and complete a RAP.” Martin said he relied on statements from Strickland.  

Illegal aliens ‘not specifically addressed’ in bill 

In his response, Strickland was less inventive. “Illegal immigration was not specifically addressed in this bill but if any legislator believes that illegal aliens are taking the funds set forth in this program, then I am sure we will see a bill to address this” he wrote. 

I also sent a request for comment to Kemp’s office: “…is there a provision in state law created by 2022’s SB 379 that prevents illegal alien employers and employees similar to the subjects of this press release by the U.S. Attorney in Georgia’s Southern District from accessing the tax-payer-funded apprenticeship program on any level?” After a “D.A., call us back…” voicemail from Kemp’s then-Executive Counsel, David Dove, I eventually received an answer from Kemp press secretary Garrison Douglas in a Twitter/X message. It was a link to a code section (OCGA 50-36-1) that “should answer” my question. It doesn’t.  

I have been working with that law since it was written in 2006. Responses to my open records requests from TCSG clearly show that it is not being used to verify the lawful presence of anybody involved in the HDCI or RAP programs. The Kemp response is well worth a look. 

I am confident that my own investigation of 2022’s SB 379 and the resulting taxpayer-funded “workforce development” scheme has gone far beyond any done by Kemp or the 208 state legislators who voted to create this “illegals are welcome in Georgia” gem. 

Georgia’s HCDI/Registered Apprenticeship Program requires immediate reform. 

D.A. King is the president of the Marietta-based Dustin Inman Society

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