Positive Changes in Public Education

By Beacon Staff

University of Montana President Royce Engstrom and Flathead Valley Community College President Jane Karas visited with legislators during the winter to discuss future plans for the university system. It was music to my ears to hear there will be a teacher education program at FVCC this fall, which will use our publicly funded system rather than the expensive private school now being used. I’m sure budding teachers will enjoy the lowering of fees with their education similar to what’s been done from the private sector.

There was a real push several years ago after an audit revealed that nursing credits were not transferring from FVCC to Montana State University. Lots of work has been done since that audit, both on the part of the university system and the private sector, which sees the need for local training of future employees. We’ve done it in the nursing program, so it’s welcome news to know our teachers are going to learn locally at less expense. It could provide many opportunities for those called to a great profession to make a difference in Montana kids’ lives.

FVCC has been a leader in workforce training in Montana and the nation. Working with local businesses to discover the needs in local economies is a win-win for everyone. Many displaced workers from Columbia Falls Aluminum Company and Plum Creek in the manufacturing sector have been retrained for skills outside their previous fields. We’re always hopeful that added manufacturing jobs in the Flathead would encourage skilled laborers to stay at home, rather than move to North Dakota.

Manufacturing jobs have taken a new turn in this area with firearms, differing uses for wood products, alternative energy and retrofitting communication equipment as growing industries. These jobs need skilled workers who often transition from other areas and settle in the Flathead knowing it’s a great place to live and raise a family.

The local community college leaders have recognized the talent of our local students for a long time. The first six credits at FVCC are tuition free to high school juniors and seniors through the Running Start program. Not only does it allow our students to get a taste of college life and learning, but these credits often are the carrot to encourage further study after high school. Your local guidance counselors can steer you to the right contacts.

Graduation is drawing near for many students in the Flathead. As the last few weeks of school draw near, remember that graduation opens new opportunities for growth since learning never stops at the ceremony. Congratulations to all of you as you embark on a new life’s journey.

Dee Brown is a Republican state senator from Hungry Horse

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