Life changing programs lead to trades career

Kandice RileyAFL-CIO, Community Engagement, Financial Stability, Volunteer

By United Way of the Ozarks volunteer writer

Jeremy Nichols is a father who participated in the first cohort of a new program to the Ozark area, Missouri Apprentice Ready.

Finding and keeping a job that paid a living wage had become a disheartening struggle. But in 2022 he started down a new path toward self-sufficiency by participating in the Missouri Apprentice Ready Program.

United Way of the Ozarks assists the program through the Missouri Works Initiative, a nonprofit organization sponsored and supported by the Missouri AFL-CIO.

In January 2022, Jeremy made a commitment to enter rehab while living at Harbor House, sponsored by the Salvation Army. By May 2022, Jeremy was a graduate of the first Springfield class of the Missouri Apprentice Ready Program.

Asked what he learned about himself through the process, Jeremy said, “Even if you fall down, you can still get back up and rebuild your life and do better for yourself and your family.”

Stronger Than He Thought

Developed with underrepresented and under-resourced individuals in mind, the five-week Missouri Apprentice Ready Program introduces participants to the construction industry. The program aims to create a more equitable, inclusive and diverse workforce while also increasing the number of Missourians participating in registered construction apprenticeships.

For five weeks, participants delve into construction math, diversity awareness, sexual harassment, financial literacy, construction health and safety (OSHA 10, first aid, and CPR/AED certification) and other content. They visit various trades’ training facilities for hands-on experience with tools and materials, and they meet with representatives and leaders of construction trades unions.

The math had Jeremy a little worried. Before starting the program, he was nervous about taking the initial assessment test, afraid he wouldn’t pass it. But he did. His confidence got a boost once he realized he was stronger in math than he thought he was.

During the program Jeremy and other participants connected with a number of trade unions. Once he completes a few additional requirements through the Missouri Works Initiative, he plans to become an apprentice bricklayer.

Giving Back, Paying Forward

In May, Jeremy caught the spirit of volunteerism and helped with the National Letter Carrier’s Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive. He’s changing his life, and he looks forward to seeing the positive impact those changes will make on his family. His goal now, he said, is to continue to better himself not only for himself but for his kids. He wants to show them that “as long as you get up and you keep striving, you can achieve your goals, no matter how big they may be.”

An opportunity for the community 

Four classes of the Missouri Apprentice Ready Program are planned for Springfield each year. Entrance to the free program is by application. 

To learn more about participation requirements, preferred credentials and the application process, visit the Missouri Works Initiative.