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Montana Launches “Year to Career” Initiative to Bridge College-to-Career Gap

Montana Launches "Year to Career" Initiative to Bridge College-to-Career Gap. Indoor Farming; AgTech; Agriculture

Key Takeaways

  1. Education Design Lab, the Montana Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education, and Montana’s public two-year colleges announce a new “Year to Career” Initiative.
  2. The initiative aims to create 12-20 “micro-pathways” in high-demand fields like IT, allied health, and agriculture technology.
  3. Despite low unemployment rates, rural communities in Montana face economic challenges, making this initiative crucial for sustainable growth.
  4. The program is unique in its collaborative design, involving multiple stakeholders from the education, industry, and government sectors.
  5. The Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation, Walmart, the Charles Koch Foundation, and the Carnegie Foundation provide initial funding.

In a significant move to bolster the college-to-career pipeline, Education Design Lab (the Lab), the Montana Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education (OCHE), and Montana’s public two-year colleges have announced the launch of Montana’s “Year to Career” Initiative. The program aims to unite colleges, employers, learners, and local stakeholders to design skills-focused educational pathways collaboratively.

Governor’s Statement

“Student success, and Montana’s future, depends on innovation and fresh, new thinking to transform the way education is delivered,” said Governor Greg Gianforte. He emphasized that the initiative would pave the way for more excellent educational and career opportunities for Montanans.

Two-Year Transformation

Starting this month, 12 Montana colleges will undergo a two-year transformation to enhance their role as sustainable engines of economic growth. With the support of the Lab, these institutions will establish 12-20 “micro-pathways”—stackable credentials that can be flexibly achieved within less than a year. These pathways will lead to immediate employment in high-demand fields such as information technology, allied health, construction, advanced manufacturing, and agriculture technology.

Addressing Unemployment and Economic Struggles

Despite record-low unemployment rates in Montana, rural communities continue to face economic challenges. Many low-income families lack the resources for full-time education and training. The “Year to Career” Initiative offers high-quality, flexible, cost-effective educational options that lead to immediate employment and continued academic progress.

Partnerships and Collaboration

The initiative is unique in its collaborative approach, involving critical partners across the state. “As employers in a tight labor market, we need to change our thinking about finding ‘an employee to one of building a pipeline of future employees in Montana,” said Brian Obert, Executive Director of the Montana Business Assistance Connection, a key partner in the initiative.

Design Framework and Funding

Education Design Lab will provide the design framework for the initiative, which will be based on data and feedback from industry partners across the state. The Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation, Walmart, the Charles Koch Foundation, and the Carnegie Foundation have generously provided initial funding.

Photo by Alejandro Piñero Amerio on Unsplash 

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