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Wolf Ametsbichler

It seems like the term “Registered Apprenticeship” is popping up everywhere, nationally and here in Montana.

Admittedly, I work for the Missoula Job Service, so my daily focus is on jobs; helping workers find a good one, while also helping businesses find workers with specific skills they need.

When Gov. Steve Bullock announced the state’s new business plan, “Main Street Montana Project,” earlier this summer, apprenticeships were mentioned up top as a key way to “train and educate tomorrow’s workforce today.”

Even the White House said recently that America’s Registered Apprenticeship system will be central to meeting the nation’s workforce development challenges by raising productivity and increasing the international competitiveness of U.S. businesses, while contributing to the economic growth of communities and the country.

By now you are probably asking “What is a registered apprenticeship?”

Well, apprenticeship is actually the oldest known form of skills training, dating back thousands of years.

Times change, of course, and despite that history, today there is a general lack of awareness about registered apprenticeships. A recent report by Harvard University states that “the nation’s Registered Apprenticeship programs are a well-kept secret.”

Registered Apprenticeship is a workforce-training model that combines on-the-job training with college-level, classroom-based instruction and has been proven to benefit employers, employees and the overall economy.

As detailed in the recent Center for American Progress report, “Training for Success: A Policy to Expand Apprenticeships in the United States,” “Apprenticeships allow business to meet the growing demand for skilled workers, and they lead workers to higher wages and better employment outcomes. Although apprenticeships have proven to be an effective workforce-training tool, the United States has been slow to pick up the model.”

But that is changing. Montana has received federal funding to support private-public job training partnerships, create awareness about registered apprenticeships, and launch new apprenticeships in high-growth fields such as information technology, health care and advanced manufacturing.

In Montana today, there are approximately 1,100 registered apprentices, serving in 42 occupations throughout 53 of our 56 counties; 53 percent are registered to independent employers, with 47 percent registered to union sponsored programs.

However, 83 percent of Montana’s registered apprentices work in construction-related occupations, while less than a third work in the utility- and service-related industries.

Montana’s Registered Apprentices are contributing to our overall economy. More than

75 percent of Montana’s registered apprentices completing their programs since 1997 are still working in the good-paying jobs for which they trained.

Here in Missoula, the uptick in the economy has created labor shortages.

At the Missoula Job Service, we have realized that nontraditional ways of training our workforce should be re-energized.

For example, this past spring, we helped develop an exciting new Registered Apprenticeship pilot program.

Jackson Contractor Group Inc., a general contractor company that employs about 115 skilled workers and is based in Missoula, contacted us looking for hard-working young people to help assist on their sites. In partnership with Missoula County Public Schools, a high-school junior was selected as an entry-level registered apprentice at $12 an hour for 40 hours a week working through the past summer. The student then returned to school to graduate and will have the option next summer to continue his apprenticeship. As his skills increase, so will his wage.

The pilot was viewed a success and Jackson Contractors will be registering three additional high-school students next year. Trevor Laboski is the executive regional director for MCPS and he said that this pilot program is a great way to engage students in real-world learning and has a good return on investment for the community’s skilled workforce.

At Missoula Job Service, we are anxious to expand the program beyond construction trades to place students in avionics, electrical and architect design, CAD programming and more.

Let’s get the word out about Registered Apprenticeships, this exciting job-training program is benefitting Missoula, and our state, and will help to make sure the U.S. remains competitive in the 21st century.

For more information about Registered Apprenticeships in Montana, visit or call the Missoula Job Service at 728-7060.

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