HELENA — Montana leaders highlighted the importance of career and technical education at an event in Helena Friday.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen hosted the event in the State Capitol rotunda. It was part of her office’s “Montana Ready” initiative – aimed at making sure students can get the training they need to be ready to join the workforce.
During Friday’s event, lawmakers and other leaders heard from students participating in the SkillsUSA program, a nationwide partnership that helps middle-school, high-school and college students get technical and leadership experience.
Emma Edwards, a sophomore at Great Falls High School, is in her first year with SkillsUSA. She developed an interest in automotive work after growing up taking part in “quarter midget’ car racing, then moving on to larger vehicles.
“I just grew a passion for wanting to know more about what the cars are doing, why are they making this sound, all of that kind of stuff,” she said.
Edwards said she’d recommend her fellow students give these fields a chance.
“I just encourage kids to go ahead and try it – and if you don’t like it, try something else,” she said. “Get your hands a little dirty at school. It gets your mind off things, just like gym class.”
Representatives from groups like the Montana Chamber of Commerce, as well as the Montana Contractors’ Association’s Build Montana program, were also on hand Friday.
Arntzen said Montana businesses’ need for skilled employees is only growing – especially as they come back from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Trades need to be there,” she said. “If we’re going to open our state and rebuild Montana in a health and safety manner, our students are going to be part of that workforce.”
The Office of Public Instruction pointed to a number of available career-focused organizations students can engage, in five specific areas:
· Health sciences, including Montana HOSA: 3,761 students
· Agriculture, including Montana FFA: 7,793 students
· Business and marketing, including Business Professionals of America and Montana DECA: 23,113 students
· Family and consumer sciences, including Montana FCCLA: 13,811 students
· Industrial technology and trades, including SkillsUSA and Montana Technology Student Association: 17,787 students