Missouri is ranked third in the nation for the number of new apprentices.
The Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development is looking to keep that ranking high.
The state has been increasing awareness of registered apprenticeship programs since 2016, culminating in 2019 with Gov. Mike Parson's executive order establishing the Office of Apprenticeship and Work-Based Learning, making it the primary state agency that leads the effort in building registered apprenticeships.
The U.S. Department of Labor oversees registered apprenticeship programs and the state Office of Apprenticeship works with DOL to register programs, said Donna Brake, special projects manager at DHEWD.
Only programs registered through the DOL are recognized on a national basis. Registered apprenticeships must meet standardized national requirements set by the DOL, Brake said.
"It's really important to understand that only programs that are registered with the appropriate entity are recognized on a national basis," Brake said. "They have met all the standardized requirements at the national level set by the Department of Labor, to include key components that speak to the quality, to the diversity, to the safety of the programs and really to the high quality of the program in general."
Brake said every registered apprenticeship program has a nationally recognized credential that will be given to apprentices for their training occupation.
There are benefits to employers for creating registered apprenticeships, Brake said.
"Missouri is doing an incredible job with providing an edge to employers for getting involved in the registered apprenticeship arena," Brake said.
In the most recent legislative session, House Bill 417 created tax credits for employers with registered apprenticeship activity. It is awaiting the governor's signature.
The state's Fast Track Workforce Incentive grant was also expanded in 2022 to cover tuition, fees and direct costs, such as tools for apprentices. This technical instruction, similar to classroom training, currently is funded by the employer or the apprentice.
Apart from financial incentives, employers' investment in their apprentices develops a sense of loyalty which increases retention, Brake said.
Duane Shumate, director of employment and community engagement at the Missouri Department of Mental Health's Division of Developmental Disabilities, said his division started developing an apprenticeship program as a part of a strategy to combat their turnover rates for direct support professionals and improve care for individuals with disabilities affected by the turnover, recently as high as 58 percent annually.
DSPs are the front line direct care workers that provide assistance to individuals with disabilities, such as preparing their meals or helping them navigate the community, Shumate said. The position is entry level.
The division was seeing a workforce shortage at the community organizations they have been partnered with as early as 2018. Missouri wages for DSPs were less than the national median hourly wage.
"We cannot still find enough employees to support individuals with disabilities, and we also struggle to train people with these skill sets necessary to support people with disabilities," said Paula DeLong, executive director at Choices for People.
Choices for People is an agency that provides services for people who have disabilities. DeLong said the industry has been facing an employment crisis.
"What we wanted to do was ultimately to develop a strategy to help us community-based organizations recruit and more importantly than recruiting, retaining staff because we know if there's staffing shortages, that means the individuals who they're supporting are not able to get the support services they need or receive those from the most qualified and trained professionals," Shumate said.
The division of developmental disabilities saw that registered apprenticeships have been used in many other types of industries to stabilize turnover rates, Shumate said, so they decided to develop a direct support professional apprenticeship program in Missouri.
The Certified Direct Support Professional Registered Apprenticeship program was the first credential developed as part of the Missouri Talent Pathways initiative. The program was approved in March 2022 and the first organization came onboard in June, Shumate said.
Data from the DOL shows 93 percent of registered apprentices are employed at the completion of their apprenticeships, Brake said.
"With the workforce shortage being the way it is, having employees stay for more than just a year is an incredible benefit to employers," Brake said.
The apprenticeship programs also allow employers to create a diverse and highly skilled workforce, as they can train the apprentices to have the exact skills needed for their employees. The employer is able to increase productivity and profitability, Brake said.
The apprenticeships are valuable to the employers in that they establish talent pipelines, connect to relevant training and provide a competitive advantage. They are beneficial to the apprentices in that they provide mentoring, recognition, potential to access financial assistance, and personal and professional development, according to a Missouri Talent Pathways presentation.
In order to have become a registered apprenticeship program, businesses must establish standards regarding required components such as supplemental classroom education, on the job training, mentorship, and wage progressions.
The work process schedule includes a competency-based program with a minimum of 2,000 hours of on the job training and mentoring. The apprentice must have competencies and skill statements validated, a minimum 144 hours of related training instruction and a wage increase as part of the apprenticeship, according to Brake.
"Through all that training, these apprentices are learning kind of more of the best practices and strategies," Shumate said. "They're getting mentoring and they're earning a paycheck while they're learning ... and then it culminates with the issuance of a credential as a certified support professional."
There are 19 community partners offering the apprenticeship out of more than 600 total in the state, Shumate said. More than 160 apprentices are going through the program currently.
The division's initial goal was to have the program at five pilot sites, but they allowed more sites based on interest. In the future, they want to onboard about 20 sites annually.
"It's still kind of a small percentage because you know we just started a year ago and we've been very systematic on this growth and expansion," Shumate said. "We want to ensure that these community organizations are implementing it to the standard and fidelity that we want them to and to the quality that we would like them to do it at."
Previously, Choices for People had to create their own curriculum together to train DSPs. With the curriculum now provided for them, they are less worried about having gaps in their training and keeping it fresh and new, DeLong said.
DeLong said Choices for People had 18 members recently graduate from the program. The program was optional, but all of the DSP staff wanted to go through the program. In the future, staff will be hired with the expectation they will complete the apprenticeship.
Some agencies are hesitant to use the program since it is new, DeLong said. She has offered the training to non-DSP administrative staff and she herself has taken training modules, which both reinforced what she knew and taught her some new information.
"It's phenomenal for our industry to train people to be able to help people with disabilities because our need is not going away," DeLong said. "It's only going to grow and we must meet that need as a state and Choices for People is committed to assist any way we can to meet that need for our citizens and our community."
One recent graduate of the apprenticeship was working in fast food when she applied at Choices for People and joined the apprenticeship program, DeLong said.
"She said it was phenomenal for her. She learned so much while earning a paycheck, and she attained her DSP credential within a year," DeLong said. "I mean, her face was beaming when she talked about that. A year ago, she was in fast food, and a year later she is working with people with disabilities and she's fully credentialed. That's what this program is about. It is about helping people help people."
DeLong said she has seen better numbers as far as consistency and retention rates at Choices for People. Shumate said it is too soon to see if the program has helped with overall retention rates.
He has spoken with about 35-40 other states about this program in order to support the other states and organizations with replicating the effort, Shumate said.
Brake said the apprenticeship program has been successful in Missouri because of the great partnerships that exist between DHEWD and employers and the DOL office of apprenticeship. It has also been successful because of support from the governor and Missouri legislators, the executive order that established the state agency that moves the apprenticeship program forward, and financial investments in the program.
DHEWD wants to keep expanding the program and offering self-sustaining career pathways to young adults entering the workforce, Brake said. The department is doing some work in policy recommendations and is hoping to provide some fundable activities to assist with registered apprenticeships in the next year. This includes a youth policy academy, part of the Partnership to Advance Youth Apprenticeship.
"With registered apprenticeship, the success that we've had thus far doesn't end here," Brake said. "We will continue to create additional registered apprenticeship programs."
DHEWD is focusing on teacher education, with quite a few post secondary education training providers starting to develop teacher education apprenticeship programs, Brake said. They also want to increase youth registered apprenticeships.
Shumate said his division also is working on developing additional credentials which would be available in high schools through area career centers and are looking into the possibility of awarding college credit for the program.
Brake said DHEWD requested general revenue funds for their apprenticeship efforts to help continue staffing their efforts, provide project proposal opportunities for training providers and partners, develop new programs and help fund costs for apprentices.
The department was appropriated $3 million in current federal job development training funds. The department does not currently have this amount available for Apprenticeship Missouri efforts only, as job development training funds are used to support a variety of workforce development initiatives. The department is also applying for additional federal funding, such as state apprenticeship expansion formula funds which will still allow DHEWD to provide some of their proposed opportunities on a smaller scale, Brake said.
"We want to continue our investment in registered apprenticeship here across the state," Brake said. "It's definitely important that we provide other solutions for our employers regarding the workforce shortage crisis."
All Missouri apprenticeship programs are listed at dhewd.mo.gov. If employers are interested in starting an apprenticeship program at their organization, they can contact [email protected]. DHEWD can provide an apprenticeship 101 presentation and assist with registering the apprenticeships.