BOZEMAN — In an effort to help manufacturers meet their workforce needs and expand job opportunities in the state, the Montana Manufacturing Extension Center at Montana State University has launched a new apprenticeship program.

The Certified Manufacturing Associate Apprenticeship is a one-year program that combines on-the-job training with online technical classes on topics like safety, math and measurements, manufacturing processes, and quality control.

“This is a great way for companies to invest in new employees instead of looking for already-trained employees, which is a challenge right now,” said Paddy Fleming, MMEC’s director. “This program is geared toward entry-level employees working in any sector of manufacturing in the state.”

The program is certified with Montana’s Department of Labor and Industry, with MMEC serving as a sponsor to administer the apprenticeship, Fleming explained. MMEC tracks each employee’s progress in terms of work hours and course completion, taking that burden off the company.

“We’ve basically done all the work to design the program so we can hand it off to our manufacturing clients, and we do the paperwork for them,” Fleming said.

Participating employees earn $15 per hour during their first three months on the job, then $20 per hour for the rest of the year while they complete the 25 online class sessions. The free courses are offered through Tooling U, an online training program within the Society of Manufacturing Engineers. When the coursework is complete, apprentices take an online exam to earn the SME Certified Manufacturing Associate credential, after which they earn $25 per hour starting wage at the company. Employers may qualify for a tax credit of $750 per apprentice, or $1,500 for veterans.

The program grew out of MMEC’s conversations with manufacturers about the challenges they face. “Finding workers is probably the No. 1 challenge we hear about,” Fleming said. “We felt this could be a very helpful tool.” MMEC hopes to expand the program in the future to include more advanced manufacturing apprenticeships, he added.

Interested companies can contact MMEC at 406-994-3812. Individuals interested in becoming apprentices should contact the Montana manufacturing businesses in their area and let them know about the program, Fleming said.

MMEC, which is housed in MSU's Norm Asbjornson College of Engineering, is a statewide manufacturing outreach and assistance center that provides solutions to help Montana manufacturers grow, innovate and enhance their businesses. Since 2020, MMEC’s clients have reported $1.5 billion in new and retained sales, more than 7,000 new and retained jobs, $364 million in new investments and $184 million in cost savings.

- by MSU News Service -

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