First Apprentice Receives Brewer Credential as part of Registered Apprenticeship Program

  • — December 20 2019

HELENA – Montana Department of Labor & Industry (DLI) officials today awarded a certified national credential to Nicholas Balcken, the first apprentice to complete the Professional Brewer Apprenticeship Program in Montana.

Apprenticeship continues to provide the opportunities Montana’s workers need to succeed and have meaningful careers, Lt. Governor Mike Cooney said. We are continuing to reach out to new sponsors in a variety of new career fields beyond the trades to build tomorrow’s workforce today.

Through DLI’s Registered Apprenticeship program, Blackfoot River Brewing Company is offering its workers a new pathway to becoming a professional brewer. An apprentice will receive two to three years of hands-on learning in the brewery and complete approximately 140 hours of online courses through the Institute of Brewing and Distilling.

The launch of this apprenticeship program marks the first time DLI’s Incumbent Worker Training Program and Registered Apprenticeship Program partnered to support a Montana business. Blackfoot River Brewing Company applied and received funding from the Incumbent Worker Training Program to help offset the cost of additional educational opportunities for their apprentice

This program has given me the motivation to gain industry certification and education. I think it is really beneficial and the I hope to stay at Blackfoot for the rest of my career, Balcken said. Now we have a way to train someone to work toward the credentials they need while working on the job, just like I did. I hope ten years down the road this sets the apprenticeship standard across the board for Montana’s breweries.

Breweries are an influential component of Montana’s economy, with 11.4 breweries per capita, ranking 2nd in the nation.

Highlights of Montana’s brewing landscape include:

  • Employment in the brewing industry has more than doubled in Montana over the last five years, hiring over 1,000 workers in 2019 alone, according the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages.
  • According to the U.S. Brewers Association, Montana has 92 craft breweries. These 92 breweries produce over 197,150 barrels of craft beer annually and contribute about $496 million in economic impact.
  • Food and beverage manufacturing, which includes breweries, produced $279 million of real GDP in 2017, ranking as the third-largest manufacturing sector in Montana, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

“It’s a big booming grassroots industry in this state that employs a lot of people,” said Tim Chisman, Head Brewer and Production Manager at Blackfoot River Brewing Company. “We would love to see other breweries jump on this to help us make it a better apprenticeship program. It’s just going to continue to help the state of Montana be in the forefront of amazing beer.”

The Montana Registered Apprenticeship program is currently working to foster new partnerships to expand and diversify into new occupation fields, including at Montana breweries. The number of sponsors continues to grow as Montana businesses respond to the increasing demand for workers. Sponsorship has grown by approximately nine percent each year over the last three years.

About Montana Registered Apprenticeship

The Montana Registered Apprenticeship Program is an excellent training model that assists employers in building a highly customizable, skilled and loyal workforce to meet their business needs. In Montana, 90% of apprentices remain in the state upon completion. In turn, apprentices immediately start working and earn a paycheck while completing the required training and instruction. Upon completion, apprentices receive an industry-recognized credential that ensures future employers know the apprentice is qualified. After successfully completing a program, apprentices in Montana earned an average annual wage of $67,488 in 2018, nearly $25,000 more than the statewide average of $43,410.

For more information on the Montana Registered Apprenticeship Program, visit

About Incumbent Worker Training

The Incumbent Worker Training Program provides grant funding to assist eligible Montana small businesses with the cost of training for their existing, or incumbent workers. The employer-sponsored program’s intent is to create a stronger workforce through providing professional development for employees and strengthening small businesses across Montana.

Incumbent Worker Training funding has assisted over 100 qualifying businesses with approximately $240,000 in training and $30,000 in travel-related expenses for skill-based training so far in Fiscal Year 2020.

The Incumbent Worker Training Program is currently accepting applications. For more information, visit


Contact Sam Loveridge: Public Information Officer, Department of Labor and Industry
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