I was ecstatic to see Helena in my rearview mirror when the Legislature concluded last April. A summer focused on community, business, and family was needed. Montanans truly benefit when their citizen legislator returns home. However, as interim work has continued, it is time for a few updates.
Due to my longtime legislative support for improving Montana’s education system, I was selected to work with peers from other states as Montana’s representative on the National Council of State Legislator’s International Education Study. This group’s charge is to analyze the highest performing education systems in the world with the intent of creating an actionable set of best practices. This is a critical task because very few state education systems are competitive on the world stage.
A consistent element of the highest performing education systems is a robust Career and Technical Education (CTE) pathway. Whereas most U.S. Schools focus primarily on college preparation, the world’s highest performing schools provide both rigorous Academic and CTE pathways.
Montana graduates approximately 13,000 seniors each year, half of which are well served by an academic track. The other half are often left to “drift,” working low paying jobs with few options for career growth.
As a legislator, I have directed funding to CTE and passed legislation that encourages businesses and schools to collaborate on programs that count for high school credit while earning CTE credentials. This legislation also empowers experiential learning outside of the bricks and mortar of a school. Every Montana school, with the vision to do so, can now offer internships with business where students earn CTE certification before high school graduation.
The Interim Economic Transformations, Stabil-ization & Workforce Develop- just directed $6 million to Accelerate Montana. This program will provide accelerated training courses so that adults can quickly acquire high paying job skills in career fields currently experiencing labor shortages.
Recently, I again traveled to Helena with a “Build Montana” proposal for increasing workforce training opportunities and internships for high school students. My hope is to provide opportunities for those students that are often left to “drift” because they do not fit into the mold of college prep. I will provide updates as this program further develops.
We can, and must, do better for those students that prefer working with their hands, those who love construction, and for those who enjoy mechanical or electrical challenges. A renewed emphasis on Career Technical Education programs that are based on workforce partnerships is necessary for Montana’s education system to prepare the next generation of graduates for the jobs of tomorrow.
If we fail to accomplish this, the graduates of 2031 will suffer from our lack of vision and investment and the Montana economy will not reach its full potential.
I will do my part to support and promote the best practices in CTE today, but success will only be realized if we all support and participate in workforce partnerships with Montana schools.
Thank you for allowing me to be your Representative.