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West Paw Creates Apprenticeship Program


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West Paw’s Jane Balgeman, a mentor, and Holly Evans, an apprentice, give Montana’s Governor Steve Bullock an inside look in to the world of injection molding.

Montana Governor Steve Bullock recently visited West Paw’s manufacturing facility in Bozeman, Mont., to recognize the company’s apprenticeship program aimed at training workers to meet the demands of the growing business. This injection molding training program is Montana’s first registered apprenticeship in the manufacturing industry.

“Innovation certainly runs through our veins here in Montana, whether its harnessing new technologies or manufacturing outdoor gear, tasty microbrews and world-class toys for our four-legged friends,” said Governor Bullock. “Businesses are able to nurture these big ideas through on-the-job training and apprentices are able to earn a living wage while developing the skills and knowledge to take on the jobs of the future.”

West Paw worked with the Montana Registered Apprenticeship unit through the Montana Department of Labor & Industry to create a highly customized program. The program is a nontraditional hybrid program that includes both competency and time-based components that will allow workers to move through the program quickly as West Paw looks to skill up workers more efficiently. The program includes a high level of safety and technical education training.

“West Paw is incredibly excited to participate in Montana’s new apprenticeship program. Our unique perspective is that a diverse economy makes for strong communities,” said Spencer Williams, CEO and president of West Paw. “By creating manufacturing apprenticeships, we not only have the opportunity to educate but also to demonstrate the diversified work environment that manufacturing provides. Montana’s Apprenticeship Program will help us attract, train and retain great employees. It is a win for all.” 

West Paw attended a presentation on apprenticeships at Governor Bullock’s Innovate Montana Symposium last summer and has since worked with Montana Registered Apprenticeship unit to create a set of standards for the injection molding apprenticeship.

Montana leads the nation in manufacturing GDP growth. Overall, manufacturing in Montana added $3.2 billion to the state’s GDP in 2016, over $1.2 billion more than the industry’s 2011 contribution.

Since 2000, more than 1,000 business sponsors across the state have implemented training programs through the Montana Registered Apprenticeship program. Almost 90 percent of apprentices stay in Montana after completing their programs and registered apprentices who successfully completed their training have an average wage nearly $20,000 higher than the statewide average wage. Since 2013, registered apprenticeships have increased by almost 30 percent with training programs available in over 70 occupations.

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