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In the near future, the Missoula City Council will be asked to support a resolution adopting an Apprenticeship Utilization Program. This resolution is a part of an ongoing effort to expand trades education and address an acute labor shortage in the trades industry.

Currently, Missoula is experiencing a shortage of skilled workers, particularly in the construction fields. Some local employers are not able to bid on construction projects because of a lack of a skilled workforce to complete the job. In some cases, companies have been awarded a construction contract with the understanding that the project will begin when a current construction project is completed. In addition, a large number of skilled workers are at or approaching retirement age. In some situations, employers are reaching out to retired workers in an effort to fill holes in their workforce. This tactic is a short-term solution to a growing problem.

Over the last 20 to 30 years, apprenticeship programs have lost favor due to the focus on technology, yet the rapid rise in technology has resulted in the need to repurpose buildings and develop the infrastructure necessary to expand these changes in our local economy. As a result, apprenticeship programs have been resurrected.

In the last three sessions, the Montana Legislature has passed several pieces of legislation encouraging businesses to hire workers via an apprenticeship. The Apprenticeship Utilization Program is an outgrowth of our state legislation. This program has a proven track record.

A skilled workforce supports local construction companies and hands-on training and living wages for younger Missoulians. If the apprenticeship program is with a union, the program will provide for career that comes with a pension and other benefits for their families into retirement.

Not all young people desire to move forward in their lives with formal academic training. The Apprenticeship Utilization Program provides a viable option for those seeking a lifelong career.

Therefore, I am encouraging the Missoula City Council to adopt this program and Missoula construction companies to take this opportunity to develop their future workforce. This program will pay significant dividends for employers, those individuals desiring a well paying career and the general Missoula community.

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Rep. Willis Curdy, D-Missoula, represents House District 98 in the Montana Legislature. 

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