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University of Montana launches Tech Skills for Tomorrow

Posted at 2:28 PM, Oct 29, 2019

When it comes to expanding high tech jobs in Montana a shortage of skilled talent stands in the way, but the University of Montana is teaming up with some big names in the tech industry to change that.

Tech Skills for Tomorrow is an initiative that UM hopes will help students be better prepared for their careers after they graduate.

UM president Seth Bodnar says that its also not just about training students for today but to also make their time spent at the UM future proof.

The initiative is an exciting program that UM hopes will create better trained students for the tech sector which has been a growing field in Montana -- and especially here in Missoula.

“I think we are seeing a real strength and robust growth in the tech sector or here in Missoula and across the entire state,” Bodnar said.

“And really, what we are talking about today with the launch of our tech skills for tomorrow's initiative -- is it’s making explicit our commitment at the University of Montana to partner with employers across Montana,” he added.

“And frankly around the globe to prepare our students to succeed in their first job out of school and then over the course of their entire career.”

That means preparing a range of different students from traditional to non-traditional.

“It’s also about different pathways for students to start out of high school. For students to maybe come back after a few years away from school after some time in the military.

And you can't get a much bigger partner than Amazon whose officials say the initiative will definitely benefit the students in the program.

“Coming to a place like Amazon with a set of technology skills in hand and the ability to continue to learn is going to give people an enormous head start,” Amazon Web Services Global Public Policy Michael Punke.

UM is taking a four-pronged approach to the initiative including building programs with partners that create multiple pathways and pipelines when their done with their time at UM.

“We need trained technicians who know how to use a machine called a fusion splicer that is how fiber optic cable gets connected,”” Punke said.

They can look to the University of Montana for students with that expertise.

“A certificate in fiber splicing -- which is an incredibly important skill to equip students with the knowledge they need to really build, literally the wiring of the internet. And we had an even here three weeks ago with a company to give a certificate for 31 students,” Bodnar said.

Those students became in high demand literally overnight.

“Who when we talked about that program in the newspaper, the next day, we had I think multiple employers calling up and asking for the names of those students cause they are so in demand,” Bodnar said.

Bodnar and Missoula College Dean Tom Gallagher made the Tech Skills for Tomorrow initiative presentation in front of UM officials and Missoula businesses leaders at Missoula College on Monday.