HELENA – State leaders said Wednesday that two-year colleges will be sharing a $25 million grant to improve and expand training for energy and manufacturing jobs.
Higher education officials joined Gov. Steve Bullock and U.S. Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester in lauding the federal grant money on Wednesday.
Baucus said he created the grant program in 2009 and secured funding for it in the 2010 federal budget. The money comes to Montana from the Department of Labor, which awarded the grant based on an application put together by the college system.
Baucus, who just wrapped up a jobs summit in Butte, said business leaders want better trained workers.
“One of the messages we heard over and over at our jobs summit in Butte, is that creating new jobs in Montana doesn’t do us any good unless our workers are trained and ready to fill them,” he said in a statement. “I’m proud of Montana colleges for stepping up to the plate to help make sure Montana jobs go to Montana workers.”
The Montana university system said the money will help train workers in fast-growing areas with a shortage of workers, such as the oil fields in eastern Montana.
Certificate programs will come in such areas as metal fabrication, welding, industrial machining, diesel technology and other areas. The colleges also expect to expand training for commercial drivers’ licenses.
A long list of employers signed on to help design curricula, including from the oil fields to trucking to aircraft and other industries.
“This grant is probably going to transform how we approach things in Montana through our two year colleges, and really move the needle in how we are able to respond to workforce and industry needs,” said John Cech, deputy commissioner for the two-year schools at the Montana University System.
He said there are a lot of underemployed workers in the state who could be helped by the new programs.
Commissioner of Higher Education Clayton Christian called the grant a “game-changer” in the way the system trains people for jobs. The system expects to train 10,000 workers.
“Montanans must be trained with the skills to compete in the 21st century workforce,” Bullock said. “This grant will help our colleges the resources they need to ensure they are training our students for the jobs that are in demand.”
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