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MT organizations seek solutions to statewide skills gap issue

Skills gap
Posted at 10:25 AM, Mar 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-21 12:25:50-04

HELENA — A skills gap is referred to a disconnection between an employer and a job candidate because of a lack of skills needed to perform the duties. The Montana Chamber of Commerce released their 2020 survey results and discovered that the skills gap is a statewide issue.

Jacob Bartow works as a Technician at a Helena dealership often handling oil changes and vehicle recalls. He enjoys his job.

“I really like plugging away at stuff, trying to figure what I can do to fix stuff," says Bartow.

It may come as a shock to hear that Bartow graduated high school in 2020. He’s 19 years old and is already working full time in a career he’s been trained for, a rarity for many employers in the trades.

“It feels great to be one of the very few people that's actually interested in doing this sort of thing,” says Bartow. “A lot of kids my age don't seem to be as interested in going into the trades."

Bartow is part of a solution to a statewide issue in Montana, closing the skills gap. The Montana Chamber of Commerce released survey results from 2020 detailing that out of nearly 1000 respondents, 36% of businesses had to turn down growth opportunities due to a lack of skilled workers. Career fields included construction, engineering, and more.

“That's a startling reminder to the state of Montana, for all of us in the business community and education community, that we need to do more on trying to train a workforce that is appropriately educated, that have the skills that can apply to our workforce needs today," says Todd O’Hair, President of the Montana Chamber of Commerce.

The MT Chamber of Commerce has connected with local organizations like SkillsUSA of Montana to gain their insight to fill the skills gap. Bartow is an alumni of SkillsUSA and an example of the goals they are working to achieve.

"For generations now, we've had this mindset that these are not good quality jobs, these are not good quality careers for people to go into,” says Mary Heller, SkillsUSA of Montana Director. “One of our immediate short term goals is we are working on getting the advertising out there like 'Hey! These are excellent careers, these are excellent jobs. We have Montana employers who are wanting to hire you."

For the long-term, SkillsUSA of Montana has a 5-year strategic plan in place that works with school districts and leaders to ensure Montana's students are career-ready. They say this plan will play an active part in narrowing the skills gap for Montana's businesses.