Apprenticeships sometimes overlooked as Montana career options

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Posted at 10:34 AM, Apr 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-28 12:39:56-04

HELENA — Coronavirus (COVID-19) closures have left many laid off and unemployed, leaving some to consider career changes.

A real concern for many considering a career is starting back at the bottom in an entry-level position or taking more time off to return to school and the costs it may require.

Apprenticeships can be good opportunities for those looking for a career change or a re-entry into the workforce.

There are currently more than 2,000 registered apprentices in the state of Montana with around 70% in construction fields like electricians and carpenters.

The state in recent years has seen more apprenticeship programs develop in fields like healthcare, information technology, and even brewing.

The Montana Department of Labor and Industry says apprenticeship is sometimes overlooked by people as a career path but can be a great option for people trying to find good-paying work.

“Apprentices on average, that complete, make about $25,000 more than the median wage,” said Montana Registered Apprenticeship Program State Director Jay Reardon. “Of those that complete the registered program, about 9 out of 10 are still working in the state of Montana and contributing to our economy.”

Reardon says a desire to work and an interest in what you’re doing are the primary requirements for an apprenticeship. One of the benefits of an apprenticeship is you learn skills on the job and get paid in the process.

“Every apprenticeship program has the on the job learning component, the actual work where you’re getting paid, there’s wage progression whereas you learn the skills you get a pay raise accordingly and required related instruction,” said Reardon.

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Apprenticeships can be good opportunities for those looking for a career change or a reentry into the workforce.

Black Foot River Brewing Co. in Helena was the first brewer apprentice program of its kind in the state and former apprentice -- and current lead brewer -- Nicholas Balcken says the program was a great opportunity.

“As I was starting I was always trying to figure out how to get education that leads towards certification, and really the only way to do that was to go to school that would take a year or two,” explained Balcken. “I didn’t want to take any time off work, and this allowed me to train on the job, have training online, and leading towards a certification I can use in my career moving forward.”

Montana Registered Apprenticeship participants earn the official Apprenticeship Completion Certificate upon completion of their training, which is nationally recognized.

“I feel more legitimized and more confident when talking to my peers about what I’m doing,” said Balcken. “It just helps me move forward and work in a confident way and brew beers that I know are going to be a great end result.”

The Department of Labor and Industry says apprenticeship programs can also be a good tool for employers who are looking at filing a job but are having trouble finding people with the right training.

More information about the Montana Registered Apprenticeship program can be found here.

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