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New apprenticeship program lands in northern Michigan

Bergmann center EDIT.jpg
Courtesy of the Bergmann Center

A new kind of apprenticeship program has begun in northwest Michigan. It’s the first apprenticeship that offers a certification through the U.S. Department of Labor exclusively to people with developmental disabilities.

The Bergmann Center is leading the program and serves people with developmental disabilities in Charlevoix, Emmet and Antrim counties gain job skills.

Executive Director Chuck Hayes said the apprenticeship program offers 12 months of on-the-job training and 144 hours of related technical instruction. He said it's a game changer for people with developmental disabilities.

"They can show to a potential employer and say, hey, look, I am qualified to do this, because the U.S. Department of Labor says I am. So in that way, we're able to do a lot of alternative trainings for them," said Hayes.

Apprentices who complete the training receive a certification in customer service and train in the Bergmann Center's resale shop.

According to Hayes, the Bergmann Center is frequently contacted by potential employers and established manufacturing partners to have their clients work for businesses in response to the national labor shortage.

"We're contacted almost on a daily basis by other manufacturers that would love for us to do things for them. We're simply out of clients, we just don't have the clients to now keep up with the demand of the jobs that are being asked of us," said Hayes.

The program is co-sponsored by Northwest Michigan Works and serves as the primary liaison between the Bergmann Center and the U.S. Department of Labor.

Rick joined WCMU as a general assignment reporter in March 2022.