The community of Colstrip will receive federal aid to assist with workforce planning and training "to ensure the successful transition of the region to a diversified economy," according to Montana Governor Steve Bullock.
“Taking care of the workers of Colstrip is a top priority of our administration, and I remain committed to making sure we don’t leave the community high and dry,” said Bullock. “This funding is absolutely critical to ensuring responsible, Montana-made solutions that will bolster job creation potential and harness good-paying jobs for hard-working Montanans and their families in the region.”
Two million in funding will be immediately available for planning efforts in Colstrip and for workforce training of coal workers in other Montana communities.
In response to the decline in coal mining employment and potential long-term impacts in the region, the Montana Department of Labor & Industry (DLI) applied for the POWER grant through the U.S. Department of Labor’s Dislocated Worker program to provide support for the local Colstrip community to achieve their economic development goals.
The funding covers workforce training for Colstrip and other communities in Eastern Montana affected by coal-related layoffs. The money will go directly towards training 1,700 workers in 21 eastern and south central Montana counties for new jobs in a diversified economy.
The funding will be awarded as sub-grants to eligible training providers with a connection to the local community, such as community colleges, tribal colleges, labor unions, or other training organizations.
The application was developed with support and guidance from the local economic development corporations, local worker’s unions, and other groups interested in the successful transition of the community’s workers.
Local economic development organizations will also assist with a regional workforce plan to develop a strategy to take the existing workforce and transition them into occupations needed in the future economy.
“There is some productive collaboration going on, all in an effort to assist coal country as there are some significant impacts on the horizon,” said Jim Atchison, Executive Director of SE MT Development based in Colstrip. “When these impacts hit coal country, every community in Montana will feel the pinch, but these grant funds awarded to the Montana Department of Labor & Industry will certainly help ease these pending impacts.”
“The coal industry is changing. This grant will help ensure that Montana coal is better able to continue as a vibrant sector of the Montana economy for years to come,” said Al Ekblad of AFL-CIO. “It is great example of what can be accomplished when organized labor, government, and conservationists work together. The Montana AFL-CIO would like to thank the Montana Department of Labor & Industry, Northern Plains Resource Council, and our affiliates for their work, effort, and effective cooperation on this grant that will help the Colstrip community and workers.”
Additional funding will go towards sub-grants to local and statewide entities to support curriculum development or innovative workforce training consistent with the Colstrip economic development plan.
DLI also anticipates to open a Job Service Office in Colstrip, expand capacity in the Registered Apprenticeship program to recruit more businesses to be sponsors in the coal-impacted region, and hire a tribal workforce coordinator to work with dislocated workers on the Northern Cheyenne, Crow, and Fort Peck reservations.