MISSOULA – Missoula College and Bitterroot College of the University of Montana will receive close to $1.4 million and $930,000, respectively, from a $25 million grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Labor. Thirteen Montana two-year and tribal colleges will use the grant to train and prepare workers for jobs in energy and manufacturing industries.
According to John Cech, Montana deputy commissioner of higher education for two-year and community college education, the partnership is one of the largest statewide workforce development initiatives ever.
The energy and manufacturing industries are targeted in the grant because of a recognized gap in the state’s current ability to provide trained workers in those fields, and the significantly growing need for workers in jobs that support the industries.
Missoula College will use the grant to expand its Energy Technology program, increase the capacity to offer Welding Technology courses, expand its noncredit Commercial Driver License (CDL) courses by purchasing newer semitrucks and complete implementation of an Emporium math instructional model, which allows developmental math to be delivered in a laboratory setting.
“We are very thankful to have been included in this important statewide initiative,” said Brad Layton, director of MC’s Energy Technology program. “It will give the Energy Technology program the opportunity to offer more hands-on experiences to our students in our existing fields of study such as solar thermal, wind turbine technology, fuel cell technology and photovoltaics – as well as emerging technologies such as advanced manufacturing with recycled materials and smart-grid tech.”
“Our two current semitrucks both have close to 1 million miles,” said Missoula College Outreach Director Vida Wilkinson. “This grant will allow MC to purchase newer trucks, so we can offer more courses and meet the ever-growing workforce demands for CDL drivers. According to Bitterroot College Director Victoria Clark, the grant will allow BC to establish meaningful industrial technology training programs in Ravalli County for the first time. New training programs will include CDL, welding and fabrication, manufacturing technician, industrial electronics, industrial maintenance, energy technician and oil and gas fundamentals. Four new faculty members will be hired, more than doubling the current size of the BC staff.
“Bitterroot College UM could not be more thrilled,” Clark said. “The grant will allow the Bitterroot College to meet local manufacturing businesses’ hiring needs and provide skills training for local residents seeking regional employment. This funding should prove a boon for the entire economy of the Bitterroot Valley.”
Commissioner of Higher Education Clayton Christian said there were several state and federal authorities who helped land the job-training grant for Montana. “We appreciate the support we have received from Gov. Steve Bullock and his staff, as well as Montana’s congressional delegation: Sen. Max Baucus, Sen. Jon Tester, and Rep. Steve Daines,” Christian said.