GFC MSU partners with Dick Anderson Construction to offer apprenticeships
Great Falls College MSU has partnered with Dick Anderson Construction to offer an apprenticeship program for the company’s employees. The program offers on-the-job and classroom training. The training program recently became an official Montana Registered
By Erin Granger
Great Falls College MSU News Service
GREAT FALLS – About two years ago, Dick Anderson Construction approached Great Falls College MSU looking for ways to train existing employees.
"It was really evident that our industry is not hurting for work, so we were having difficulty finding qualified carpenters and laborers," said Annie Chase, Human Resource Manager at Dick Anderson Construction.
Great Falls College MSU's Center for Lifelong Learning worked with Dick Anderson to build a customized training program that fit the company's needs.
What started as an internal apprenticeship program has now become an official Montana Registered Apprenticeship program.
"It benefits the employees to have it registered with the state," Chase said.
When employees complete the apprenticeship program they earn a nationally recognized industry credential through the Montana Department of Labor & Industry.
"It gets them a little bit more credit," Chase said.
Since 1941, the Montana Registered Apprenticeship program housed within the state Department of Labor & Industry has worked with business sponsors to launch apprenticeship programs and put Montanans to work. In 2017, the state legislature voted to provide a tax credit to companies offering training programs through the Montana Registered Apprenticeship program.
Companies receive a $750 tax credit for each new apprentice or $1,500 for apprentices who are veterans.
Apprenticeships are a time-honored tradition of passing on craftsmanship, knowledge, and skills to the next generation in the workplace.
"Today, apprenticeships are putting Montanans to work and expanding talent pipelines for businesses across the state," said Department of Labor & Industry Commissioner Galen Hollenbaugh.
Apprenticeships help grow Montana's workforce, while also supporting local economies. In 2015, the average wage of a registered apprentice was almost $38,000, which is higher than the earnings of a typical working college student. After completing their training program, apprentices go on to earn significantly higher wages.
"Apprenticeship programs add to Montana's human capital, which promotes economic growth," Hollenbaugh said. "Economies with greater human capital grow more quickly, are more likely to innovate, and are more nimble in responding to economic needs."
Dick Anderson Construction's apprenticeship program has been a great success for the company. With the help of Great Falls College MSU, they piloted the program in Helena and have since expanded it to Bozeman. They'll start offering apprenticeships in Great Falls in April and hope to eventually expand to Missoula and Billings.
"They wanted a way to get more of their employees educated without having to leave the workforce and go to school," said Heather Palermo, Director of the Center for Lifelong Learning at Great Falls College MSU.
Great Falls College MSU worked closely with Dick Anderson Construction to develop a training program that fit the company's specific needs.
"We had to take the training to them," said Joel Sims, Trades Division Director at Great Falls College MSU.
Every week, a GFC MSU instructor travels to Helena and Bozeman where he teaches a classroom training session for employees. Employees then worked with Dick Anderson Construction supervisors to do hands-on training and assessments on their job sites.
"We focus the classroom sessions on what the students are working on at the job site," Palermo said.
For example, if they are building stairs, the classroom training will teach them the proper technique for stair construction.
For a training program to become Montana Registered Apprenticeship certified it must include 2,000 hours of on-the-job training and related instruction, which is more formalized instruction, often in a classroom.
Dick Anderson Construction could have hired its own trainers to offer the related instruction, but it made more sense for them to partner with a two-year college like Great Falls College MSU.
"Two-year colleges are positioned in a way that we already have the structure and materials to offer the related instruction," Palermo said.
Palermo and Sims worked with Dick Anderson to make sure the curriculum matched what they wanted their employees to learn.
"Great Falls College has been absolutely wonderful to work with in regards to tailoring the work to be exactly what we want," Chase said.
Great Falls College MSU can help businesses with a wide range of apprenticeship programs.
"Apprenticeships aren't just for trades," Palermo said. "There is no set curriculum for an apprenticeship program and that's the awesome part of it."
Some programs can be structured so students earn college credit and even a college degree or certificate. However, apprenticeship programs don't have to be for-credit.
"We're here to help companies create whatever kind of apprenticeship that works for them," Palermo said.
Great Falls College MSU has offered customized training for several years, meaning it develops training programs customized for specific companies. Working to create an official apprenticeship program is very similar.
"Apprenticeships are not the same for every company or every industry," Palermo said. "We work closely with companies to tailor training to be what they want."
In addition to giving employees the skills their employer is looking for, apprenticeships also show workers that their employers care about their longevity with the company.
"A company's culture and investment in their employees is more important than it used to be," Palermo said.
Since starting the program, Chase has seen employees' skill sets improve, but she's also seen a cultural shift amongst workers.
"We have seen a huge attitude change with our employees who are part of the program," Chase said. "We see longevity with them now. They're eager to learn and take on new challenges."
For more information on how Great Falls College MSU can help with a registered apprenticeship program, contact Heather Palermo at 406-771-2290 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information please contact:
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Executive Director—Development, Communications & Marketing
firstname.lastname@example.org or 406-771-4412
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