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Dick Anderson Construction Apprenticeship Program
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  Heather Palermo
  Director of Lifelong Learning
  Great Falls College - Montana State University
  Great Falls, MT


Four years ago, Dick Anderson Construction (DAC) located in Helena, MT, contacted Great Falls College Montana State University (GFC MSU) about providing carpentry training for their employees. The Center for Lifelong Learning took the lead on this, since it would be customized training. At the time, no one could have guessed that this would turn into a multi-level, multi-city, state apprenticeship program that has upskilled 54 (unduplicated) employees at DAC.

During the initial meetings, GFC MSU listened to the needs of DAC and what they wanted to accomplish. This allowed Lifelong Learning, in conjunction with the Trades Division, to develop a four-level training for DAC’s employees. In the early stages, GFC MSU was able to use Perkins grant funds to develop the curriculum and offset some of the costs. However, DAC believes it is important to invest in their employees, so they cover all expenses associated with the training, except for books. The students in the program are required to pay $100 at each level for their books, which creates buy-in by the employees.

The first cohort started in 2016 in Helena with six students. GFC MSU provided only the related instruction based on the NCCER Carpentry program. At the completion of each level, DAC decided whether the students moved on to the next level and receive a wage increase. This cohort were the guinea pigs, and DAC worked closely with GFC MSU to tweak the customized training to create a better experience.

After the first cohort, DAC added training at additional locations. This is when the program really began to take off. Learning from the first cohort, some changes were made: better attendance and grading tracking and all employees received a binder to organize their materials, and labs were added, creating more hands-on opportunities for the students. Last year, the program expanded to include three cities in Montana - Helena, Great Falls, and Bozeman. In 2018, this program became a registered apprenticeship program with the State of Montana.

This year, Missoula was added, and Bozeman will have two cohorts running simultaneously. All of the levels are now nine months long and start around the same time. Currently, there are 37 employees participating. It is very possible that this will expand again next year.


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