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Montana students get an up-close look at trades industries

Montana students get an up-close look at trades industries
Posted at 8:20 AM, Apr 19, 2024

LEWISTOWN — An initiative driven by the Superintendent of Public Instruction was at the forefront in Central Montana on Thursday, April 18, 2024.

More than 500 7th through 12th grade students from around north central Montana left the comforts of their classrooms for a chance to explore career pathways for Montana Ready Trades Day.

The program focused on technical education with an emphasis on agriculture, business, health care, industrial technology and family consumer sciences. Montana Ready is designed to help students be ready for college, career and community.

“So everything from not just their technical skills, but the soft skills that employers need to make a quality employee once they get finally into the workforce,” said Montana Ready Coordinator Mary Heller.

Heller says the participating companies that attended and gave the students a chance to engage in hands on activities are providing a key service.

“Our school counselors are overwhelmed with mental health and getting students in the right classes,” said Heller. “A lot of them don't know the career pathways for these other areas. The four-year route is great and it's needed, but so is an apprenticeship and two-year route.”

Through its association with the Montana Contractors Association, Build Montana helped bring together construction and industrial technology companies to highlight what they have to offer.

“I just think it's super important to get those companies in front of students and let them do hands on stations, hands on learning in order to explore those careers rather than just a conversation,” said Build Montana Director Hailee Olsen who also serves as workforce director for the Montana Contractors Association.

“Every person that is coming through today's event is going to be an employee somewhere someday,” said Ashley Morris who works in safety and human resources for Allied Steel, a sponsor of the event. “So our goal is to try to find the ones who would love to be a welder or love to be a fabricator and come out and hopefully keep building our workforce.”

Mike Houghton is in the education division with Dick Anderson Construction, another sponsor of the event. He can relate to the students, having been a shop shop teacher for 15 years.

“All education really needs to focus around training students for work one way or another, be that something academic or whatever,” said Houghton. “So students having hands on exposure really engages them.”

Reese Von Bergen is a senior at Stanford High School. She plans to study radiology at MSU-Billings, but events like the Montana Ready Trades Day show her all kinds of options.

“I just wanted to see more and get different perspectives and viewpoints of other different careers and also get to see the medical field a little bit,” said Von Bergen.

8th grader Kaelyn Caraveo of Denton hopes to one day be a rural veterinarian. She says the trades day is a good way for students to get an early idea about more than one career opportunity.

“Especially if you don't really know what you want to do with your future,” said Caraveo. “If you’re just kind of like testing the waters, I think it's nice because you don't have to commit to anything.”

The program was also sponsored by Central Plumbing of Great Falls.

Parents were also able to learn more about the Montana Ready program hearing from a career pathways panel that included representatives from the participating businesses and the Montana Department of Labor.