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Missouri House bill would incentivize apprenticeships, internships

by Cameron Gerber | February 23, 2023 at 4:01 a.m.

Missouri lawmakers are considering incentives that the business community says would bolster the state's future workforce.

HB 1038, known as 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 of them 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 last 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.

Sponsor Rep. Brad Christ, a Republican from St. Louis, said the state's apprenticeships were flourishing, with Missouri ranking in the top five states for them in most lists. Internships are another story, he said, with the state's numerous universities largely exporting undergraduates. He said the two largest metros in the state, St. Louis and Kansas City, had lower internship rates than other major cities in the Midwest.

Christ said an additional incentive for businesses might improve those rates.

"I feel this is a very important bill that could generate positive economic and workforce outcomes in our state," Christ told his fellow lawmakers on the House Economic Development Committee on Wednesday morning. "I think we should double down on this. Overall, incentivizing the internships and apprenticeships will result in full-time positions for the state, contributing to much-needed talent recruitment and retention, especially during the talent wars and this post-COVID era."

The bill received support from eight witnesses from across the state, including representatives from the St. Louis and Kansas City areas and students. It also received the backing of Cara Corches, vice president of legislative affairs for the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry, who said the bill would encourage businesses to grow their workforces and give new workers the opportunity for a job following their education.

"We need all the tools in our toolbox when it comes to our workforce issues, and we think that incentivizing more internships and apprenticeships is a really good thing, especially when we look at kind of our declining birth rate and we're not seeing millions of people move into Missouri," she said. "There's data showing that if a student gets an internship with an employer, they are very likely to end up with a full-time job upon graduation, and we know that that would then enable them to stay in Missouri; that's a good thing.

"We'd like flexibility for our employers. And I know that a lot of people think well, only a big business is going to offer an apprenticeship. No small businesses can do that as well. And so we think that this bill is a really vital tool, and hopefully getting small businesses to also think about offering an apprenticeship, which is a great workforce development tool."

No one spoke in opposition to the measure during Wednesday's hearing, and the committee did not take action on the bill.

HB 1038: Authorizes the “Intern and Apprentice Recruitment Act,” relating to a tax credit for employing interns and apprentices

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