Envision 2026, News, Newsletter, Workforce Readiness, Youth Entrepreneurs|

by Mark Branger, Executive Director for Montana ACTE

Career and Technology Education (CTE) prepares youth and adults for a wide range of careers with varying levels of education – from high school and postsecondary certificates to college degrees. The primary areas of focus are the attainment of academic, leadership, and employability skills and the completion of diplomas, credentials, and certificates. Even college-bound students can get job experiences to help them define their career plans, identify an appropriate course of study, and pay for tuition. 

A major component of a quality CTE program is a partnership with business and industry. Industry engagement in career and technical education (CTE) programs not only prepares students with the skills they need for careers, but it also contributes to the development of clearly defined career pathways that lead students to careers after graduation. If students complete a CTE program but their work is not recognized by industry, then the program has not truly been successful. This burden of success is dependent upon industry and education working together. A good place for employers to recruit is from successful CTE programs, as long as the programs are teaching the necessary skills. For example, a program may be using outdated curricula or not teaching the most current techniques or technologies. By establishing relationships with industry partners, schools can better prepare students with in-demand skills and provide pathways to rewarding careers. 

CTE fosters future leaders by providing leadership training in class and through related activities (Career and Technical Student Organizations). However, another benefit of partnerships is  by placing students in workplace contexts where they can receive mentorship and observe leadership in action. Empowering students with authentic leadership roles is invaluable. Other benefits of partnerships for industry include understanding what schools are needing from the education community, potential for more qualified employees, spreading career awareness, and well-rounded employees who learn employability skills while still in school.  

Montana has over 500 approved CTE programs and over 800 certified teachers in Agriculture, Business, Marketing, Family and Consumer Sciences, Industrial Technology, and Health Sciences. The work that has been done with the Montana Chamber of Commerce has opened doors and presented opportunities between Montana’s businesses and education communities. Great examples of school/community partnerships are happening all over Montana. We need more of them, and we need to ensure they are relevant to the needs of 21st Century learners. Montana ACTE is thankful for the work that has been done and looks forward to more opportunities for partnerships in the future. Creating lasting and sustainable partnerships with industry and education is a win win for all involved!

For more information on Montana ACTE:
1477 Ash Street, Worden, MT 59808
W: 406.967.2540 x360
C: 406.855.5776

By: Mary Heller, State Director for SkillsUSA Montana

Everyone knows about the skills gap and workforce shortage issue in the skilled trades. Industries in fields such as construction, manufacturing, heavy equipment operation, and mechanics can’t find enough quality workers to fill the job vacancies that are open on any given day of the week.

On the other side of the coin, across the nation many public schools have shut down, or scaled back to almost non-functioning, their industrial technology classes. Better known to many people as “shop” class. There are many reasons for this but one of the biggest is the overall shortage of teachers in the secondary school system.

Now, add these issues to a lot of money being used in a 40-plus-years cyclical marketing strategy by four-year universities to get high school kids to pursue that route rather than an apprenticeship or trade school. What do we have? We find ourselves right back to facing the problem of the skills gap.

Is any of this news? No. Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last ten years.

When will we ever learn? When will the skilled trades industries start fighting fire with fire? When will there be a cyclical marketing strategy to show how many amazing opportunities await young people in the skilled trades? When will this same repetitive marketing strategy showcase all the cool things young people can create, design, build, operate, and show off for years to come? When will the kids, who are still in shop class and loving it, be recognized and shown a different path than the 4-year degree; a path that brings rewarding careers in the skilled trades?

Maybe the answers lead to another question: How do the skilled trades industries connect to the public school system and build a workforce? It just so happens, there is an answer to that question.

The Career and Technical Student Organization (CTSO), SkillsUSA, housed within the Career and Technical Education division of the Montana Office of Public Instruction.

This CTSO has over 500 members within the secondary and college-level institutions in nearly 50 schools across Montana. These are the shop kids. These students are learning from their teachers how to properly crank wrenches, weld, read tape measures, design and construct a building, and many other skills needed in the industries struggling with the skills gap. And, because they belong to SkillsUSA, they are also learning how to communicate, why job site safety is important, and how to be a responsible employee that shows up to work every day ready to work. They are becoming the quality, skilled workforce needed across Montana and the nation.

SkillsUSA is actively building tomorrow’s workforce in the skilled trades. Now, that is something worth celebrating about for CTE month!

 Want to learn more?
Contact Mary Heller, State Director for SkillsUSA Montana
[email protected]
P: 406-399-0640

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