State, business leaders tout career readiness programs

Build Montana Event
Posted at 8:29 PM, Sep 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-16 11:30:06-04

HELENA — On Wednesday, state leaders and business partners highlighted the importance of career readiness training – both for students and for the state’s economy.

Montana Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen held a news conference at the State Capitol with the Montana Department of Labor and Industry and the Montana Contractors Association. They touted public-private partnerships that introduce students to career opportunities.

“I believe that’s what public school is for – it’s to give them that opportunity of what’s next,” said Arntzen. “It’s not just about school; it’s that school investment in them, giving them opportunities for their next stage of success.”

One of those opportunities is Build Montana, a program that launched in Billings earlier this year. It is a partnership between the construction industry and public schools. Six students went through 30 hours of classroom instruction and 30 more of field training. They were able to observe and assist in some actual construction projects.

David Smith, executive director of the Montana Contractors Association, said two of the students who participated in the program were immediately hired for construction jobs afterwards.

“One of them said he thought he was just destined to have a job at Walmart all of his life, but with this, he felt he really had an opportunity,” he said. “The Build Montana program is not huge and going to change a lot of lives, but I feel like we changed six lives in this last program this last year – and that made a difference.”

Leaders plan to run the Build Montana program again in Billings this spring, and they also hope to expand it into the Flathead.

Smith said construction and other trades are dealing with worker shortages, just like other employers in the state. He said that means it’s important for them to target outreach and talk to the students who might really be interested in that career path, and programs like Build Montana help accomplish that.