Missouri lawmakers consider incentives for internships, apprenticeships

Julie Smith/News Tribune photo: Sen. Travis Fitzwater, left, turns to Sen. Nick Schroer, both freshman Republicans who were to be sworn in Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023, during opening ceremonies in the Missouri Senate.
Julie Smith/News Tribune photo: Sen. Travis Fitzwater, left, turns to Sen. Nick Schroer, both freshman Republicans who were to be sworn in Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023, during opening ceremonies in the Missouri Senate.

Missouri may attempt to boost apprenticeship and internship opportunities within the state under a bill making its way through the state Senate.

SB 637, deemed the Intern and Apprentice Recruitment Act, would allow those who hire interns or apprenticeships paid at or beyond minimum wage to apply for a tax credit. The credit would total $1,500 for each intern or apprentice as long as the number of hirees exceeds the average number from the three previous years, interns work 60 hours per month for two consecutive months in the year the credit is claimed and apprentices complete at least 144 hours of work in a calendar year.

Credits would be capped at a total of $1 million a year and $9,000 per recipient. If total awards exceed $1 million, priority will be given to recipients that have been in business for fewer than five years.

Applications would be submitted to the Department of Economic Development, and the program would automatically sunset after six years.

St. Charles County Republican Sen. Nick Schroer, the bill's sponsor, presented it during an initial hearing before the Senate Economic Development Committee on Monday afternoon.

"Missouri is currently facing a significant challenge of retaining our talented graduates. Every year we lose roughly 20,000 students who graduate from our higher education institutions, and then they go on to take their first jobs out of state," Schroer said. "It is clear that increasing the number of internships in this state should equal more talent staying here within the state of Missouri. More talent staying here equates to the type of growth the state needs both in the business sense and the impact to our economy."

Schroer said national data pointed to 70 percent of undergrad interns being offered full-time positions with those businesses with three-quarters of them accepting those offers.

The bill received no pushback during the hearing, with representatives for Greater St. Louis, the Missouri Retailers Association, the Economic Development Corporation and the Kansas City Chamber of Commerce speaking in its favor. Kara Corches, vice president of legislative affairs for the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry, also supported the bill, shifting the spotlight from the number of workers being lost to the training opportunities Missouri is already well known for.

"Missouri is really a shining star in terms of apprenticeships right now. We rank somewhere every year between number two and number four in the nation in the number of new and completed apprenticeships," Corches said. "We think this is a great alternative training pathway to get people into the workforce. And so anything we can do to create more apprenticeships in the state is a good thing."

Gov. Mike Parson said during this year's State of the State address Missouri had achieved its goal of creating 20,000 new apprenticeships, which was set in 2019, three years ahead of schedule. He also requested $3 million for the Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development's Apprenticeship Missouri program.

The Missouri Chamber also offers a pair of websites dedicated to connecting businesses with those seeking training. Missouri Intern Connect (https://mointernconnect.com) listed 76 opportunities as of Monday. The Missouri Chamber itself listed a summer intern position located in the Capital City, while the Department of Conservation listed several open spots locally and the Department of Agriculture listed one in town.

Of the 56 apprenticeships listed on Missouri Apprentice Connect (https://moapprenticeconnect.com) as of Monday, two were available in Jefferson City, one with the Department of Transportation and another with the Department of Corrections. A joint apprenticeship offered by the Roofer Local 20 also lists Jefferson City among its potential locations.

The committee did not take action on Schroer's bill Monday.

An identical House effort, HB 1038, progressed to the upper chamber last week.