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Build Montana graduates celebrate early, prepare to step into trade fields

Posted at 6:22 PM, May 17, 2024

BILLINGS — The accomplishments of nearly a dozen Build Montana graduates were celebrated during a ceremony at COP Construction in Billings on Friday.

“All my friends are at school right now and I’m working machines and stuff," said Abby Barlagee, a program graduate.

Build Montana provides high school students with opportunities to network with trade industry professionals, get hands with materials, and receive certifications prior to apprenticeships. It's a partnership among the Montana Contractors Association, the Montana Equipment Dealers’ Association, and the MCA Education Foundation.

“I’m excited that I get to go straight into an industry that I know that I like," said Merrick Choriki, a graduate who will head to ThinkBIG with Caterpillar Inc. after graduating high school.

Many of the recent graduates said they were looking forward to the money in their respective trades, including several with starting salaries of $60,000 per year.

“It is good money, but honestly, I don’t really think about that. I think it’s just kind of fun," said Barlagee.