Two Southwest Missouri businesses in the tourism industry are among the employers participating in a new registered apprenticeship pilot program for individuals with disabilities.

The program, called Work Able Missouri, is administered by the Missouri Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development's Office of Apprenticeship and Work-Based Learning. It is designed for apprenticeships in the hospitality sector.

Dogwood Canyon Nature Park and Branson Hilton Hotels will participate and plan to hire four to six apprentices, the state education department recently announced. Apprentices in the pilot program will earn wages above minimum wage and will explore roles in facilities management or as culinary assistants.

"We are working to remove barriers and help more people enter the workforce," said Mardy Leathers, director of workforce development, in a statement. "This pilot program is another opportunity to be inclusive in how we modernize and expand apprenticeships in Missouri."

The program seeks applicants through the end of January. Applicants must have an active case with Missouri Vocational Rehabilitation and should contact Jennifer Kincaid via email at Jennifer.kincaid@vr.dese.mo.gov for more information.

Registered apprenticeships are an "earn while you learn" training model for employment that increases pay as the apprentice reaches higher productivity levels, the state said. Apprentices learn on the job under the supervision of a trained professional; upon completion of the apprenticeship, individuals receive nationally recognized occupational credentials.

Missouri ranked second in the nation for completed apprenticeships in fiscal year 2019, the state education department said. More than 14,800 active apprentices are participating in 473 registered programs throughout the state.