A Business Plan for Montana by Montanans

For Montana by Montanans
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Together, we can produce a pool of highly skilled and talented workers, improve our state's economic productivity, and set a trajectory for sustained economic growth.

One of Montana's key strengths is our highly educated workforce. Ninety-two percent of Montana's population over 25 has a high-school diploma, placing Montana #1 among the 50 states in 2012.  Main Street Montana participants recognized our skilled workforce and quality K-12 education systems as important strengths, but participants made a very clear point: we must provide education and training opportunities aligned with the needs of the private sector.

Employers and entrepreneurs want to locate in Montana. We have an incredible quality of life that is coveted nationwide. Our challenge, and our opportunity, is to ensure that when they locate here, we meet their workforce needs.

To meet employers' demand for skilled workers, Montana's workforce development system must align with the dynamic needs of local economies.  As the economy changes due to rapid advancement of new technologies, education and apprenticeship and training programs must be able to quickly respond and adapt to the demands of the marketplace. Forming partnerships among educators, workforce development professionals and the private sector will help identify opportunities to connect education and training to the skills necessary in an ever-changing economy.

While Montana has high rates of educational attainment, we also have the nation's highest level of workers aged 65 and older. Economic projections show Montana's working population leveling off in the future, creating a shortage of workers in the traditional working age range. Roundtable and survey respondents also recognized Montana's aging population as a challenge we must address.

Education and training systems can help increase labor force participation and improve job matching by providing access to high quality opportunities for all ages, abilities and aspirations. In a state as large as Montana, access is not just a question of affordability. We need programs accessible throughout the state, meeting the workforce needs of place bound students and employers. Where appropriate and feasible, online and other distance education tools should be developed and expanded.

Finally, this plan includes a commitment to learning and development at every age, including an investment of state resources in pre-kindergarten. It's time to join the overwhelming majority of states that know that our investment now will pay off for generations to come.

We call on private industry to fully engage in the development and continued improvement of our education and training system. Together, we can produce a pool of highly skilled and talented workers, improve our state's economic productivity, and set a trajectory for sustained economic growth.


GOAL: Align educational system with the needs of a changing economy

Objective: Support efficient, effective and responsive delivery of educational programs designed to meet the needs of businesses and employers

Objective: Promote community colleges, two-year colleges, and tribal colleges as essential local and regional suppliers of Montana's trained workforce

GOAL: Engage private-public partnerships to provide job training, apprenticeship, and professional development opportunities

Objective: Integrate job skills, workforce preparedness and entrepreneurial training into the K-12 education system

Objective: Elevate the role of workforce training programs, apprenticeship and training, and other on-the-job programs as essential suppliers of trained workers for industries that drive Montana's economy

GOAL: Provide a lifetime continuum of quality education from pre-school through adulthood

Objective: Improve opportunities for early childhood education

Objective: Improve high school student career and college readiness

Objective: Provide effective and efficient career paths for Montana higher education students and underemployed job seekers