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Report shows need for post-secondary education workers in Montana

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Posted at 8:24 AM, Oct 28, 2022

HELENA - The recently released Montana Post-Secondary Workforce Report details workforce needs and labor market outcomes of graduates in the state.

“So, across the state every industry, pretty much every occupation, is experiencing a workforce shortage. Our unemployment rate sits now just below 3%, which is a very tight labor market," said Montana Department of Labor & Industry State Economist Amy Watson.

"Employers throughout the state are reporting difficulty hiring and finding qualified applicants,” Watson continued.

This report, the second of its kind, details whether or not post-secondary education systems in Montana are putting out workers to match the needs of the state.

The report looked at the Montana University System schools, as well as private institutions and tribal colleges, vocational institutions, and the Montana Registered Apprenticeship Program.

The report found that about 62% of occupations that are in high demand and require some sort of post-secondary education are undersupplied. This undersupply reaches many different jobs.

“Early childhood education, mental health counseling, a lot of construction jobs like plumbers and electricians, as well as some graduate-level health professions,” Watson said.

The report shows that workers who complete apprenticeships on average earn double what someone with a bachelor's degree might earn.

Ten years after both are completed, apprenticed workers are still, on average, making more than $14,000 than those with four-year degrees.

The report also states that almost 75% of graduates from Montana post-secondary institutions work in the state at some point within 10 years of graduation.

While there is a labor shortage in Montana, it’s not due to people not wanting to work.

Watson shared with MTN that the amount of people working in each age demographic is back to pre-pandemic levels.

Some of the real reasons behind the shortage are retirees and an increase in job openings.

“We’ve actually seen labor force participation rates among every age group return to their pre-pandemic levels. So, those individuals who may have fallen out of the labor force due to the pandemic are back in the labor force. Really what's driving our workforce shortage at this point is our increasing retired population,” says Watson.

Watson hopes that this report can help create better policy and better understanding for students where their skills are needed.

“Reports like this can help inform policy. It can help inform educators, can help inform students,” Watson said.