Missouri sets goal to expand apprenticeships

Missouri wants to serve 55,000 new apprentices during the next couple years.

The Missouri Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development announced its new goal Tuesday during its annual Apprenticeship Summit in St. Louis. The summit was part of the state's celebration of National Apprenticeship Week.

"Missouri continues its commitment to providing pathways to quality, sustainable employment for our citizens," Julie Carter, director of the Office of Workforce Development, said in a news release. "We look forward to celebrating this week each year to help raise awareness and recognize how registered apprenticeships help meet the changing demands of Missouri's economy while also providing individuals an opportunity for growth and well-paying careers."

The department's new goal builds on recent success in developing certified apprenticeships throughout the state. In 2019, it set out to serve 20,000 new apprenticeships by 2025. It reached the goal three years ahead of schedule in 2022.

There are 19,800 active apprentices statewide, according to MDHEWD. Electricians, corrections officers, sheet metal workers and teacher's aides are among the top occupations with apprenticeships.

Additional opportunities are available through registered youth apprenticeships. The state has 29 registered youth apprenticeship programs with approximately 350 active apprentices working in health care, cybersecurity, transportation, construction and advanced manufacturing, according to MDHEWD.

The Show-Me State is among the top in the nation for registered apprenticeships, ranking second for new apprenticeships and third for completed apprenticeships.

And state lawmakers and agency officials are looking to keep those rankings high.

During the most recent legislative session, legislators created new tax credits for employers with registered apprenticeship activity. The session before, lawmakers expanded the state's Fast Track Workforce Incentive grant to include apprenticeships, allowing awards to cover tuition, fees and direct costs, such as tools.

And several state agencies, such as the Missouri Department of Mental Health and Missouri Department of Corrections, use apprenticeship programs to fill high-demand positions.

The Department of Corrections was recognized as the Employer of the Year during the Apprenticeship Summit. More than 1,300 corrections officers have been trained through apprenticeships, making the department one of the largest employers outside union trade jobs to utilize apprenticeships.

"The State of Missouri recognizes that registered apprenticeships, a proven and industry-driven training model, is a key strategy to improving job quality and creating access to good-paying, family-sustaining jobs for all, starting with youth and young adults, while also addressing some of our nation's pressing workforce challenges," Gov. Mike Parson said in a proclamation that declared Nov. 13-19 National Apprenticeship Week in Missouri.