Cayuse introduces apprenticeship program

By the CUJ

MISSION – Cayuse is introducing an apprenticeship program designed to attract tribal members to a career in one of Cayuse Holdings’ family of companies, which are owned by the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation.

Coordinating the apprenticeship program is Debra Croswell, recently named director of Cayuse Shared Services, which provides administrative support functions to Cayuse Holdings subsidiaries. Croswell said the new program is unique in that it will encourage a common pledge between the company and the apprentice.

“It’s a little unique because we are wanting to partner with somebody and help them through school with the idea that in the end they commit to Cayuse and Cayuse commits to them,” Croswell said.

Following the company’s “Grow the company, grow the people” vision, the apprenticeship program seeks to help tribal members who are attending college achieve a degree and ultimately a career with Cayuse.

As envisioned, the chosen apprentice – the program will start with a single person this year – will work part time in a Shared Services department while attending college. The part-time entry-level job, based on career goals, could be in any one of six Shared Services departments, including compliance, facilities, finance, human resources, information technology support, or recruiting/talent acquisition, with the possibility, too, of placement in a marketing job (outside Shared Services).

“Ideally we want to expose them to all the different kinds of departments that Cayuse has and we’re hoping that whoever is selected will explore each for a short period of time, but if they are solely focused on IT support we’re not going to force them to work in Finance,” Croswell said. “But we’ll give them the opportunity at least to learn about other functions, even if it’s just in the simplest way.”

The apprentice would be eligible to receive cash reimbursement in the form of a scholarship – up to $3,000 a year for a full-time student and up to $1,500 for a part-time student – that may be used for higher education/vocational expenses, including tuition, books and fees. In exchange for Cayuse’s commitment of resources, the apprentice would agree to become a full-time employee at Cayuse if a position is available and offered. If the apprentice chooses not to accept the position they may have to repay the financial assistance.

The best case scenario will be an apprentice attending Blue Mountain Community College in Pendleton or Eastern Oregon University in La Grande, or perhaps studying online through through Oregon State University or the University of Oregon. It’s important that the apprentice lives near Cayuse Technologies facilities on the Umatilla Indian Reservation “so they can actually work at the facility and be part of the department’s team.”

Croswell said a tribal member who successfully completes the apprenticeship will have a job waiting, but they should not expect to step into a management position.

“If you commit to us, we’ll help with your school and you’ll learn this business,” she said. “When you’re all done, when you finish school, we’ll have a job ready for you. We’re making no commitment to handing you a management job. You’ll need to work hard and work your way through the organization like anybody else would.”

Information about the apprenticeship is available at

A review panel will screen people who express interest and invite some to apply, with interviews expected later this summer. The apprenticeship likely will start when college classes begin in the fall, Croswell said.