The Dept. of Labor’s inbox has been swamped by more than 300,000 comments—the vast majority from construction workers, according to a top union official—weighing in on the department’s proposal to revamp the federal program for apprenticeships. The regulation would apply to a broad range of industries. But for construction, the critical issue is a provision to exempt the industry—“at least initially,” DOL says—from a key element of the overall apprenticeship plan. That element is the creation of Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Programs (IRAPs) that would take over much of the standard-setting now done by DOL and state agencies. DOL said it would exempt construction and the military from that industry program because those sectors already have extensive apprenticeship programs. The exemption provision has split the construction industry. The building trades unions strongly support the exemption. They also want DOL to go a step further and make the exemption permanent.