Pillar 1: Train and Educate Tomorrow's Workforce Today
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.