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Northern apprenticeship program with two-year colleges receives COVID-19 grant

A total $2.2 million awarded to Montana workforce development and remote training programs


September 16, 2020

Staff and wire report

Gov. Steve Bullock and Commissioner of Higher Education Clayton Christian announced last week that just over $2.2 million in funding to be distributed to 19 projects supporting workforce development and remote education delivery for Montanans, including a program started by and administered by Montana State University-Northern.

The grants are for programs in Montana’s two-year colleges, including $250,000 for the accelerated apprenticeship education initiative in plumbing and electrical programs led Northern and in partnership with Gallatin College, Great Falls College and the Billings Montana State University Career Center.

All projects funded by the initiative will be based at one or more two-year institutions across the state of Montana.

Northern was the first university in Montana to tailor its programs, early last decade, to count toward the five-year requirement of apprenticeship in plumbing in the state, and followed that with its electrical program being set to help students get through the required apprenticeship.

Examples of other projects include an education initiative to address teacher shortages across Montana, a remote information technology program, and a pilot respiratory therapy program, a press release said.

“Quality, accessible education is vital to our communities and by enabling more Montanans to pursue college and technical education training, we can ensure that even small towns across our state never lack opportunities,” Bullock said. “I look forward to this partnership in recruiting the new, innovative learners who will help us strengthen Montana.”

Bullock, who cannot run for governor due to term limits, is running for the U.S. Senate and faces incumbent Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont. in November’s election.

The grants were awarded through a competitive application process, with leaders from Montana’s two-year campuses, representatives of the Montana Department of Labor and Industry and the Office of Public Instruction involved in the review process, the release said. The 19 successful projects were selected from a pool of 27 proposals. Project awards range from $15,000 to $320,000.

“It’s hardworking Montanans who will benefit from this funding,” Christian said in the release. “These awards will support programs for Montanans who want to better their futures – be it a rural high school graduate launching a career in health care or a middle-aged worker looking to retool or advance their career while raising a family. We’re grateful to Governor Bullock for investing in our future economy through these programs that give working Montanans a leg up.”

The funding comes from Montana’s portion of the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund, for which Congress set aside approximately $3 billion of the $30.75 billion allotted to the Education Stabilization Fund through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security — CARES Act — the release said.

In collaboration with Bullock, the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education allocated $2.2 million of the funding to a remote education delivery and workforce training initiative in collaboration with Montana’s two-year and community colleges, resulting in the grants announced today. The competitive award process prioritized proposals that included multi-campus collaboration; new or enhanced credentials for students and adults working on updating their skills; and aligning remote or workforce training access with the needs of traditionally underserved students.

Other programs funded include:

• A multi-campus collaboration to pilot a shared respiratory therapy program with Gallatin College, City College and Great Falls College: $180,000

• An information technology remote education initiative led by Missoula College in collaboration with Bitterroot College, Helena College and Highlands College: $191,000

• A paramedicine program partnership between Flathead Valley Community College and Miles Community College: $67,500

A complete project listing is available at https://mus.edu/geer .

“We appreciate the dedication and hard work of the governor, the Montana Department of Labor and Industry, the Office of Public Instruction and all of our campus partners who have made the support of these programs possible,” Christian said in the release. “We look forward to seeing the results, as students complete their programs and bring newly minted skills to the workforce to help lead our economic recovery.”


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