HELENA — Training directors across Montana are deeply concerned by Governor Greg Gianforte’s attempt to change the apprentice to journeyman ratio. 

A proposal currently being considered by the Department of Labor would allow two apprentices to one journeyman. These changes will decrease workplace safety, the quality of training apprentices receive and is bad for both business and workers. 79 percent of Montana apprentices work in the construction industry, on job sites that can be dangerous and require specialized knowledge and hands-on experience. Reducing the opportunity for individual training and supervision can lead to more workplace accidents and injuries, something that is detrimental not only to workers, but can delay completion timelines and put projects over-budget. 

“Apprentice training is the process of training a skilled workforce, while providing both workplace safety and public safety,” said Chris McGowan, Montana Electrical JATC Training Director and MT SWIB Apprenticeship Advisory Council member. “Drastically changing the current ratio to 2:1 reduces the quality of training and in the end produces a less skilled workforce for Montana. This way of thinking is contradictory to the concept of apprenticeship and its purpose.”

Even more concerning, the current proposed language by the Department of Labor and Governor Gianforte could allow for up to five apprentices being supervised by one journeyman. This will result in unsupervised work, more dangerous worksites, less quality craftsmanship and lower wages. 

“It is nearly impossible to oversee and safely train two apprentices with one journeyman,” said Mykal Jorgensen, Director of Training for Billings Pipe Trades JATC (Local 30). “What failsafes would be put in place to ensure that one apprentice doesn’t electrocute themselves or start a fire while the journeyman is with the other apprentice. Having had my own apprentices in the past, I know how quickly things can happen. This will also result in higher costs to customers because it’s hard enough to give quality training to one apprentice and still complete a job in a timely and efficient manner.

Apprenticeship programs have been growing in Montana and across the country because of the path they provide to good paying jobs, with graduates of registered apprenticeship programs earning an average of $240,000 more in their lifetime than workers who do not complete a program.

With the passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and more investments in construction projects, it’s more important than ever that the quality of these programs be protected.

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