February is Career and Technical Education (CTE) month, and at the Montana Chamber, we are big fans and supporters of CTE. It is also personal to me. Slow to hit my growth spurt and less than graceful to boot, I found my home in Livingston’s Vo-Ag and FFA program. It was here where I was forced outside my comfort zone in public speaking, leadership, teamwork, and critical thinking. I fully credit Vo-Ag and FFA for the foundational skills for a successful and happy adult life.
30 some years later, I find myself deeper in educational issues than I ever imagined. Montana’s economic potential is being squeezed by workforce challenges. Montana Chamber survey results from business leaders across the state told us in 2019 that 36% of businesses were turning down business opportunities due to a lack of a skilled, trained, appropriately educated workforce. Most recent survey results are even more startling, with 76% reporting turning down business opportunities for the same reason.
And what specifically are employers identifying as top challenges in job applicants and new hires? Basic employability traits like taking personal responsibility, showing up for work on time, critical thinking, working as a team, basic business economics, and demonstrating leadership qualities to name just a few of the “soft skills” in short supply today.
Over the course of the month, the Montana Chamber of Commerce will be sharing our business survey results and will draw attention to how CTE courses in Montana align with those results. Additionally, we will be highlighting an exciting Montana Chamber Foundation program known as “Youth Entrepreneurs” and how this curriculum not only instills skills necessary for successful entrepreneurs but is also addressing the biggest challenges identified by business leaders.
As the leading business advocacy organization in the state, the Montana Chamber is working closely with education at all levels and business leaders across the state, to solve the serious challenge that limits Montana’s economic success.