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GBED eyes apprenticeships to help workforce woes
New program helps businesses with youth apprentices
apprenticeship program hire sign pic
Through a pilot youth apprenticeship program, Great Bend Economic Development Inc. hopes to address some of the workforce issues as evidenced by this sign on 10th Street. - photo by DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune

“Help wanted” signs hanging in windows and posted on billboards have become a familiar sight as businesses struggle with a workforce shortage. But, through a new apprenticeship program, Great Bend Economic Development Inc. hopes to help solve this problem, GBED President Sara Hayden said, addressing the Great Bend City Council Monday night.

“Workforce remains a challenge, not just in our area, but in every area,” Hayden said. “But here, we’ve really recognized that one of the options to help us overcome some barriers would be apprenticeship.”

With very low unemployment rates, there are not a lot of folks in the workforce, she said.

“Those who aren’t (employed) usually are not skilled enough for the jobs that are available,” she said. “So we want to be able to offer them the opportunities to get to those skill levels to take these jobs that we’ve got open.”

That’s where apprenticeships comes in. 

For youth apprenticeships, Great Bend was approached by the state to launch this pilot program. This is a joint effort at the state level involving Jobs for America’s Graduates-Kansas (JAG-K), the Kansas State Department of Education and the Kansas Department of Commerce, and is part of the Kansas Youth Registered Apprenticeship initiative.

“We met with 10 of our businesses that have been a part of these conversations in the past,” she said. “Out of those, three of them would like to pilot this program with us and the state.” 

They can partner with high school students as young as 16 and get them into business working as apprentices. And then when they graduate, they will have hopefully completed their apprenticeship program and be able to take full-time positions based on that training. 

“Each different business will have their own set of rules and things that apply,” Hayden said. “But the state is committed to working with them to build something that works for each different career.”

It is a great program to get employees the skill levels needed to get them into different businesses, Hayden said.

“We will follow this up with adult apprenticeship,” she said. “Those conversations are in the work as well.”

“There’s no extra cost to employers except for training that they would need to do anyway,” Hayden said, However, especially for the youth program, there are grant funds available to help reimburse the employer for taking a chance. 

The state is now trying to secure more funds for adult apprenticeship grants.

Any employer that would be interested in hearing more about either youth or adult apprenticeships should contact her. Visit the website, email or call 620-796-2407.