Next week 28 students from area high schools will receive formal job offers from local companies that are in real need of skilled employees.

The students make up the first class of the Four Rivers Career Center’s (FRCC) Youth Registered Apprenticeship program, which launched last summer in collaboration with TransPORTS, an intermediary for the U.S. Department of Labor and the Missouri Department of Labor.

They will land jobs at the businesses where they spent the past months training alongside skilled mentors, acquiring invaluable hands-on experience.

We offer our congratulations to the leadership at FRCC for having the foresight and initiative to make this program happen, as well as to the students and businesses who will benefit from it.

Apprenticeship programs are a proven model for workforce development. They help businesses develop highly skilled employees, reduce turnover rates, increase productivity and lower the cost of recruitment. They allow students to earn credentials and a paycheck while gaining “hands-on” practical experience and skills employers want.

Skilled trades are a vital part of the state’s workforce. Even with an economy hobbled by the pandemic, about half of all manufacturing and skilled trade employers in the state are finding it hard to fill positions. That is especially true in this area.

The FRCC’s apprenticeship program is particularly suited to address this labor shortage. It has designed a partnership with local industries that is bridging the gap between 21st-century education and the employment needs of our community as FRCC Director Andy Robinson predicted.

This is exactly the kind of workforce development program our community needs right now. We appreciate FRCC for recognizing that need and starting up this apprenticeship program.