By Tim Leeds
Local businessmen and educators met at Montana State University-Northern in April to find solutions for local automobile shops to hire Northern students and graduates.
The meeting of the Automotive Advisory Board in Donaldson Commons at Northern included representatives from local automotive businesses, automotive and diesel faculty from Northern and representatives from Havre High School, a press release from the university said. Northern's Chancellor Alex Capdeville and Provost Roger Barber also attended, as did Havre High Principal Jim Donovan.
The main issue raised at the meeting was that local businesses are having difficulty finding qualified workers in the local market, the release said. Interest in the field is declining in high school students, Northern students are having difficulty scheduling work, and many who do work at local businesses leave after graduating.
The business representatives agreed that needs differ from business to business, but their greatest need right now is qualified employees. Dealerships are required to hire certified technicians, and many businesses try to hire employees with at least two-year degrees.
Some ideas raised at the meeting to help solve the problems included:
Using the school-to-career programs at the high school, such as job shadowing;
Having local businesses attend Northern's high school recruiting sessions;
Offering more cooperative positions to incoming freshmen;
Offering to pay some of a student's tuition and fees in exchange for a set number of work hours;
Businesses interviewing students at Northern's Career Center.
Northern instructors at the meeting said they would be willing to open up blocks of time to allow students to work for local businesses. Members of the group also agreed that the businesses need to tailor the positions more specifically to the students' desires to keep them working locally after graduation.
The business representatives agreed that local shops still benefit from hiring the students even if they do leave after graduation.
The board created a team to design specific actions to help solve the problems examined at the meeting. The team includes Jay Anderson, Wane Boysun, Cal Brown, Greg Clouse, Tony Dolphay, Bruce Flathers, Jerry Franson, Vern Gagnon, Kevin Johnson, Don King, Steve Neiffer, Tim O'Bressley, Jim Potter, Lynn Stilger, Darryll Thackeray and Bill Wirtzberger.