Apprenticeship Spotlight: Hard work pays off for three machine operator graduates

Students who obtained their machine operator apprenticeship credential stand with their mentors.

Pictured left to right: Owner of High Desert Milk Karla Robinson, High Desert Milk instructor Tory Bailey, Luis Arevalo, Guillermo Martinez, Juvencio Trejo, plant manager Shawn Burton and Bob Snyder.

For student Guillermo Martinez, the Registered Apprenticeship program paved the path to his career.

“The program gave me a head start in life and helped get me ready to work 12 hour shifts. I have learned so much from the plant (High Desert Milk), and I feel I have a better chance of getting hired at other plants,” Martinez said.

The Idaho Department of Labor connects Idahoans to Registered Apprenticeship opportunities in the Gem State to expand and diversify the workforce. And the machine operator apprenticeship is graduating skilled workers in south central Idaho.

The Magic Valley area is host for multiple U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) Registered Apprenticeship sponsorships. Various sponsors include the College of Southern Idaho, McCain Foods and High Desert Milk. They each have programs designed to train employees in operation maintenance for manufacturing, packaging, dehydration and use of other machines within a facility.

In this case, High Desert Milk sponsored a USDOL Registered Apprenticeship Program which combines on-the-job training and job-related instruction to fill some much-needed spots in the workforce. Participants in the program gain the necessary skills to perform the job and earn a nationally recognized certificate or credential.

Three students — Guillermo Martinez, Luis Arevalo and Juvencio Trejo — completed their apprenticeships and are ready for the workforce due to ongoing support from the department and their sponsor.

Gaining a Registered Apprenticeship credential and joining the workforce meant a lot to Arevalo.

“The hours of going to class and learning how to operate machines had finally paid off,” he said. “The program not only taught me about safety, it taught me about the real world. It taught me how to be responsible by getting to class on time, how to work together, how to help each other and work on your own. But most importantly, it taught me how to communicate with others.”

All three apprentices said they were eager to sign up for the program and wanted to dive head-first into the workforce post-graduation. Arevalo and Martinez both said they decided to join the program after talking with their peers who found success by becoming an apprentice.

Andres Gutierrez and Jonathan Lizardi, who are previous participants of the program, hold lead positions at High Desert Milk and were on a panel where they highlighted the importance of safety. They said what they learned in the classroom ultimately helped prepare them for their full-time jobs at the facility.

Which means the Registered Apprenticeship program shows results.

Supervisor at the Idaho Department of Labor Burley office Chet Jeppesen, assisted with getting this sponsorship approved through the USDOL. He said the students worked as juniors in high school for manufacturing companies which normally require the individual to be at least 18 years old. Because the apprenticeship program opens doors for youth, this opportunity has helped them develop much-needed skills. But it has also sparked the desire to join the workforce. And Idaho can always use more machine operators, Jeppesen said.

“This program has blossomed into its fifth year from a group effort of various stakeholders throughout the state,” he said. “Specifically with this group of students, Labor partnered with two joint school districts — Minidoka and Cassia — to find an effective and efficient delivery method for students wanting to learn machine operating and pursue the manufacturing industry.”

Jeppesen has played a huge role since the beginning by developing this training program from scratch and Apprenticeship Coordinator Jinny Boozer, acknowledges that.

“Chet is dedicated to serving the community and is an extremely humble person. There are many workforce consultants like Chet in our department who help all kinds of customers. And they all do extraordinary work,” Boozer said.

This occupational program is one of countless around in Idaho where registered apprentices are graduated daily into their preferred field of work. In this specific USDOL’s Registered Apprenticeship program, 16 students are currently enrolled to gain their machine operator certification. It currently holds the largest class since the program launched in 2017 and opportunities are constantly expanding through the state.

Idaho has approximately 73,500 people employed in the manufacturing industry, but according to Jeppesen, there has been an increased demand for workers. Idaho Labor’s projections indicate the industry will grow 18.7% into 2030.

Not only will apprentices fill much-needed jobs in the workforce, Registered Apprenticeships also provide a national credential upon completion and many programs offer additional credentials and certifications. There are currently over 2,000 people enrolled in a Registered Apprenticeship Program, and about 93% retain employment after completing  the program according to

“Apprenticeship is an excellent way to develop skills for trades and industry,” Jeppesen said. “The student does not have to incur large amounts of debt and can make competitive wages in a relatively short amount of time.”

Machine operators aren’t the only career eligible for an Idaho Registered Apprenticeship. Possible careers in industries include information technology, dental care, education, construction, trades, engineering, banking and more.

Learn about apprenticeship programs and opportunities in Idaho at


The Idaho Department of Labor’s Registered Apprenticeship program is 100% funded by the U.S. Department of Labor as part of Employment and Training Administration grants totaling $5,581,491.

Lindsay Trombly, public information specialist

Idaho Department of Labor