Havre Daily News - News you can use

By Alex Ross 

Superintendent, Havre High students tour trade industry


December 1, 2017

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

People during a tour of the Diesel Technology Center under construction at Montana State University-Northern including Havre High School students and state Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen, back center left, and Tyler Smith of Lakeside Excavation, right of Arntzen, listen to Northern Chancellor Greg Kegel, right of Smith, Thursday during the tour. The students were being shown the benefits of a career in the construction and trade industries.

Havre High School students heard Thursday about work force needs in the trade and construction industries and about programs at Montana State University-Northern Thursday, and toured the new Diesel Technology Center under construction at Northern with representatives of the industry and the Montana Office of Public Instruction.

Havre High School Principal Mike Haugen and 20 juniors and seniors gathered in the foyer of the building to hear from workers on the project, Montana Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen, Tyler Smith of Lakeside Excavation and Northern Chancellor Greg Kegel.

"You are going to help build Montana," Arntzen said. "Not just build new, but rebuild our great state. And it is you that is going to do it. It is your generation that is going to build it."

The event was part of a partnership between the Montana Office of Public Instruction and Montana Contractors Association to promote workforce needs in construction and trades.

Smith, owner of Lakeside Excavation that is providing concrete and heavy equipment for the construction of the center, said 70 percent of his industry peers struggle to find trained trades people.

"What that means for you, is a career opportunity that almost at this position is unparalleled," Smith said.

Kegel talked about the $10 million building that will consist of multiple laboratories and classrooms for Northern's world class diesel program which is one of the few in the country to offer a four-year degree.

"These are great careers and we need to be aware of the fact that there is vertical movement in all those companies," Kegel said.

The new diesel technology center is the result of 12 years of planning with input from partners in the industry to better serve the needs of Northern's diesel program, Kegel said.

The Montana Legislature appropriated half the money for the project and industry partners provided the other half, Kegel said.

He added that a recent economic impact study from the Department of Labor and Industry said Northern students on average earn more than the average income of any other four-year college in Montana.

Lorren Schlotfeldt, an assistant professor and plumbing technology coordinator of related training at Northern in charge of apprenticeship education in 22 programs, said apprenticeships in the state are doing well, apprenticeship education in is doing great.

Northern, Schlotfeldt said, is the only university in Montana that pursues different programs promoting apprenticeship education.

People working on the building also told students about their career paths and opportunities in their respective industries.

Brent Cotton, superintendent of Swank Enterprises who oversees the work of subcontractors on the project, said he began as a laborer with the company 20 years ago when he was 19 and worked his way up to his current position.

He said the average starting hourly rate for laborers is $16.28, plus benefits, while carpenters start out at $22 plus benefits.

Cotton said that what he likes best about his job is being able to look what he has accomplished at the end of each day and the chance to teach people different things.

He said that, usually, workers who can do drywall and painters are the hardest to find.

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

"That can be some big money there if you guys are into taping drywall or anything like that," Cotton said. "That is an art in itself, taping and hanging drywall. It looks pretty easy, but its not."

John Flansburg, a master electrician with A.T. Klemens and lead electrician on the project, said that after high school he did what so many people told him to do he went to college.

He said he later realized he waned to work with his hands, and wished he learned in high school about career opportunities in trade before he went to college.

"College was great, but I probably had about $30,000 in debt by the time I was done," he said.

"To me, if right out of high school you can get into a trade, it's a good career and you can make decent money," Flansburg said.


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