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Native American universities are expanding their apprenticeship programs to provide job options



Billings, Montana – Montana has a severe shortage of skilled labor, but working with Native American universities like Chief Dull Knife and Little Big Horn, the Montana Registered Apprentice Program can help. The goal of the state’s outreach to the Native community is to inspire more youngsters to consider careers in trades.

Larry Martin, a student at Little Big Horn College, is about to embark on a new career as an electrician after making the most of that curriculum.

Martin, a native of Crow, is a master of many trades with a history in construction.

“I worked my way through, started at 15 in construction. And worked my way through college pouring concrete and doing different odds and end jobs,” Martin said on Wednesday at InterUrban Apartments on the far West End.

The lone dad is almost a master of one more trade these days.

“I’m an apprenticeship electrician and we are doing the electrical on these buildings here, we have the contract,” said Martin.

Little Big Horn College and MSU Northern partnered back in 2021 to provide apprenticeship students weekly in-person labs in Billings.

“LBHC paid for my classes. Just like with anything though, you have to buy your own tools. I had to get a good vehicle to be able to drive out of Crow, I live in Crow and I drive up here to Billings everyday,” Martin said.

Martin gave the program his all, completing the required hours and hitting the books. He even got a job in Billings at Mountain Electric.

“I think this is a really good thing for Little Big Horn as well as the tribal community. Larry has been a really good representative of what he and his people have to offer,” said Kris Rivers, the president of Mountain Electric.

Martin’s kind of apprentice, according to Rivers, is more needed than ever.

“After COVID, we had a lot of the 58 to 65-year-old experienced journeymen that wanted to retire. And after they left the workforce, we had a hard time replenishing with any apprentices,” Rivers said.

Martin went above and above expectations by completing 7,000 hours, which allowed him to take the journeyman licensure exam early. Following the test, he may impart his knowledge.

“I could go to Little Big Horn and instead of having those kids drive up here to Billings for the classes, I could be teaching those classes over at Little Big Horn College,” Martin said.

He also has the choice to remain with Mountain Electric, a business that has shown him a warm reception.

“I’m very proud of the fact that he’s gotten through it faster than the time allotted for the apprenticeship. It really speaks to who he is as a person and an employee for Mountain Electric,” said Rivers.

Martin claimed that Tristan, his eight-year-old son, is the reason behind everything he has done.

“It’s just a great feeling to be able to go home and provide for my son. It’s a feel-good job,” Martin said.


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