Lake Career and Technical Center in Camdenton and the Eldon Career Center and Eldon School District officially signed with MORAP on Oct. 29, 2018 after beginning the path to implementing the program earlier this year.

In the long tradition of craftsmanship is apprenticeship to carry on quality in needed industry and trade. Now the two main vocation education schools at Lake of the Ozarks will continue this tradition through the Missouri Registered Apprenticeship Program.

Lake Career and Technical Center in Camdenton and the Eldon Career Center and Eldon School District officially signed with MORAP on Oct. 29, 2018 after beginning the path to implementing the program earlier this year. Eldon School Superintendent Matt Davis and career center directors Kelli Engelbrecht and Jackie Jenkins collaborated in writing a grant through MORAP to create a pilot program focused on closing the skills gap in the region.

The program expands upon LCTC’s Marine Apprenticeship Program. School officials credit Larry Goudy, owner of G&G Marine, as the impetus for the program. The local businessman first approached LCTC, according to Jenkins, not just in an effort to serve his own business needs but to go beyond that and open a program that was open to other marine repair businesses, seeing the need to help build a future workforce in marine repair at the Lake of the Ozarks.

The first group meeting with the marine employers happened in late November 2017, and through a multitude of meetings and discussions, LCTC was able to register its first registered apprenticeship with the Department of Labor in May 2018.

But in February 2018, LCTC’s Jenkins and Eldon’s Engelbrecht had a vision to expand together. The two vocational schools under the umbrella of Camdenton and Eldon school districts serve students and adults in and out of their districts and had great potential to serve workforce needs around the region.

America’s skills gap in the workforce has been well-documented on national news. A report from CNBC in July 2018, estimated that the labor shortage was approaching “epidemic proportions” — to the cost of employers. 

“One of the most important economic stories of 2018 is the nationwide difficulty employers are having in finding qualified employees to fill a record 6.7 million job openings,” the report stated.

But sometimes the best solutions for widespread issues happens at the grassroots level.

In an unusual collaboration, the two school districts made a joint grant application for a MORAP coordinator to more efficiently expand apprenticeship in needed industries at Lake of the Ozarks.

The goal of the grant was to have an apprentice aligned with employers in the areas of construction, transportation (automotive, collision repair and marine), computer specialists  and advance manufacturing, according to Jenkins. Official notification of grant award was provided in March 2018, and the grant is the first grant approved by DWD to support a joint collaboration between two public school districts.  

Cynthia Walker was hired as the MORAP Grant Coordinator and she serves as the primary liaison with USDOL, employers and the two career centers.  

The apprenticeship program is already popular and growing.

During the signing ceremony, LCTC recognized three adult students, Deron Jones, Trenton Keeney and Brant Wiseman who started in the apprenticeship program last spring, and are currently fulfilling their on-the-job training commitment with employers Deer Valley Marine, G&G Marine and Kelly’s Port. Four LCTC high school students were recognized as well. Nate Angel is an apprentice with the Camdenton R-III Technology Department, Charles Lewis and Dorian Weaver are apprentices with Dependable Automotive in Camdenton and Carsen Strutz is an apprentice with LOZ Dive in Osage Beach.  

Eldon Career Center signed Lucas Martin as an IT Generalist, Isaiah Parsons and Rylee Robison as carpenters and Braeden George-Weeces as an automotive technician.  

“We could not be prouder of our new apprentices!” said Cynthia Walker in a prepared statement. “We have high expectations of these young men and hope to add many more occupations and apprentices as this program grows.”

There are a combined 10 high schools that flow into these two local career centers, according to Walker. The ECC has 511 students and LCTC, 677. The grant covers four apprentices, but the program already surpassed its goals with 11.  

In its infancy the program is already contributing significantly to statewide participation numbers. According to Walker, Missouri Department of Labor Office of Apprenticeship  Director Neil Perry recently confirmed the current statewide statistics on the local collaborative effort, both in students and employers. The ECC and LCTC have produced two of the 10 youth apprenticeship programs,  11 of the 33 total apprentices and 13 of the 25 participating employers.  

Walker credited the enthusiasm of students, instructors and businesses with pressing this initiative forward so quickly and successfully. 

The program currently has five occupations: IT (information technology) Generalist, Automotive Technician, Marine Technician, Carpenter and Welder. Industry partners include Eldon School District, Camdenton School District, Computech, MFA Oil, Lloyd Belt Automotive, Dependable Automotive of Climax Springs, Shoemake Automotive, LOZ Dive, G & G Marine, Kelly’s Port, Deer Valley Marine, SPI, Doug Smith Truss and Blackwell Construction.  

Why apprenticeship

Walker explains that while the career centers do an excellent job of preparing students for the workplace, placement into livable wage jobs can be a challenge after graduation. When a student commits to an apprenticeship, they are establishing loyalty, have a negotiated wage with a reputable employer with an agreed wage progression, and by mandate of the apprenticeship, one-on-one training from a journeyman or mentor. Some programs also transfer this work into college hours for post-secondary education. Upon completion, the apprentice receives a nationally and internationally recognized certification in their occupation, which is transferable across the states. Other benefits include the support of instructors and establishing accountability with employers to hopefully create long-term employees. With MORAP, the career centers are also able to help students with tools, certifications, dual credit and needed uniforms to help get them started on the path of success. Only the top students in the trade class are eligible with their instructor’s recommendation.