An apprentice program is leading to new careers for members of the Missouri National Guard by taking their work experiences in the service and translating them into a nationally-recognized credential.
The Missouri Department of Higher Education & Workforce Development (DHEWD), the Governor’s office, and the Missouri National Guard worked together to create the program.
“What we see is often the experiences that an individual might have in the Guard don’t fully translate out into the private sector,” says Dr. Mardy Leathers, director of the DHEWD. “In Missouri, we believe it’s very important to support our service men and women in the Guard by allowing them to access what could be considered private sector or civilian credentials or certifications.”
The Missouri National Guard Registered Apprenticeship Program makes that connection from military experience to civilian experience.
This certification is a no-cost benefit to service members who typically have to pay for certifications and complete redundant training following their departure from the military. Now, active duty service members can receive a credential in an industry-driven career field upon completion of their on-the-job learning hours.
This classroom instruction occurs during duty hours under the direction of the service members’ supervisors, and the program is tailored to fit any enlisted Military Occupational Specialty or Air Force Specialty Code (MOS/AFSC) in the Missouri National Guard.
“Our guardsmen and women, typically throughout their career, will hold multiple military occupational skills – different jobs from being a truck driver to a cook to an engineer to a bulldozer driver,” says Levon Cumpton, adjutant general of the Missouri National Guard. “And all of those skills can be highlighted in the apprenticeship program that brings value and meaning to our state and national employers.”
The Missouri National Guard apprenticeship program is the largest and most comprehensive of its kind in the nation, encompassing 171 occupations throughout every unit of the Missouri Air Guard and the Missouri Army Guard.
“We’ve been working to grow, expand, and modernize apprenticeship programs since 2018. The approach was to support the skilled trades, allow them to continue to do what they do and help them grow, while at the same time diversifying our portfolio,” says Leathers.
“Over the past five years, we’ve been able to expand apprenticeships into other sectors – 41% of our apprenticeships in Missouri are non-skilled trade. They’re in areas like education, technology, financial services, advanced manufacturing, and the public sector.”
According to Leathers, apprenticeships are an efficient way to align work experience with educational attainment. By completing on-the-job training, guardsmen are able to learn the skills they will need to be successful on the job while also earning a paycheck.
They also afford service members the opportunity to work alongside mentors and build out their network of others working in the craft or trade.
“We want more Missourians to prosper and grow,” says Leathers. “This helps us create more of a pathway inside the Guard to recognize the skills and experience that individuals will have while in the Guard, but also to transfer those skills into the private sector, whether they’re doing work part-time or full-time after transition.”