Men and women who put on a Missouri National Guard uniform to defend the United States of America can now earn a free apprenticeship certification for their military expertise.

A new apprenticeship program, called Project Eagle, allows military training and experience to qualify towards an apprenticeship certification in an industry-driven field. The formal, structured training program aims to give them a leg up inside and outside of the military – and also make the individual a more effective warfighter.

Gov. Mike Parson, Adj. Gen. Levon Cumpton, Dr. Mardy Leathers

Apprenticeships are a way for businesses to complete on-the-job training and classroom instruction of their future employees while providing individuals with experience and a paycheck.

Missouri’s Office of Workforce Development Director, Dr. Mardy Leathers, says the program has 171 occupations that members can get certified in – making it the largest U.S. program of its kind.

“Our partnership with Missouri National Guard actually was fully comprehensive. We said we want everyone to have equal access to an apprenticeship opportunity,” he says. “So we created programs for every single occupation. That’s a really big deal. The other part of it is that you know, it’s available day one – today – for any serviceman or woman that wants to join. So, I mean, if all wanted to sign up tomorrow, then we’re going to be busy, but we could sign them all up tomorrow.”

A minimum of 2,080 on-the-job training hours is required.

Project Eagle announcement

“If they’re involved in public works, so they’re electrician, working for a community, or a co-op, but they’re also in the National Guard, they’ll be able to get credit for the time they spend in the co-op and the time they spend in the Guard which will help expedite that, as well as us adding other learning opportunities,” he says.

Those boots on the ground could also help Missouri with its workforce crunch. About 116,000 jobs are currently open.

“Employers want talent employers need talent,” says Leathers. “And they always prefer servicemen and women and veterans. Because, again, they look at their leadership experience or critical thinking skills or communication skills, their dedication and discipline in addition to any specialized skill sets they might have. And so, what we’re doing is we’re helping these individuals even be more marketable.”

Missouri Adjutant General Levon Cumpton says these apprenticeship occupations can range from truck driver, to cyber security expert or healthcare worker.

“I think we have an opportunity to make a big difference across the state because there are employers looking for talented men and women, any given day, that are disciplined, that bring leadership skills and that bring training that they value,” he says.

Maj. Gen. Cumpton says the program demonstrates a sincere investment in the state’s National Guard soldiers.

“Ensuring the skills they learned in the military effectively translate to their civilian jobs across this great state, I’m confident as Dr. Leathers pointed out, that this program will enhance the retention of our highly skilled workforce by providing additional opportunities for employment across Missouri,” says Cumpton.

Gov. Mike Parson says Project Eagle credentials can translate into career advancements – helping to bridge the gap between military and civilian life.

“You know that basic fundamental training you had has made you somebody special and I will tell you are special and there’s very few people that go through what you went through,” says Parson. “You are going to need a little something extra when you get out there and get accustomed in the world.”

He says Missouri ranks third in the nation in the number of completed apprenticeships.

“Do you know how many times when we talk about Missouri we are satisfied being in the middle of the pack,” asks Parson. “So many times I’ve seen that in my career where we’re okay with just being in the middle. You guys don’t wear that uniform to be last.”

Missouri has about 14,800 active apprentices.

“Missouri consistently is leading the nation in our completion rates,” says Leathers. “We complete about 3,000 apprenticeships a year.”

In Missouri, the average completed apprentice makes $66,000 annually. Leathers says that figure is much higher than the median earnings of someone who does not go through an apprenticeship program.

“We also know that within one year of completing an apprenticeship program, 89% of those that completed an apprenticeship are with that original employer. Three years later, more than 75% are still with that employer. So it’s a huge job retention and it also supports wage growth,” he says.

Missouri has about 10,000 National Guard members. At least two members have already signed up for the program.

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