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Business & Economics

Billings Area Employers Uncertain About Workforce Training Programs

Jackie Yamanaka

Many Yellowstone County Employers say they “don’t know” when asked to rate how well education and training providers in Billings are helping them meet their workforce needs.

The finding was from a BillingsWorks survey conducted for the Big Sky Economic Development Authority.

Respondents were asked to rate the numerous programs in Billings. This includes the high schools to adult education to higher education.

In many instances “don’t know” got the most responses.

That was the case with the Career Center, which teaches vocational technical education as part of Billings School District 2.

“That 37% of the people who don’t know who we are, that’s clearly a problem,” says Career Center principal Scott Anderson.

Credit BillingsWorks
One question Yellowstone County employers were asked as part of the 2016 State of the Workforce Survey

Next door is City College at MSU Billings. 34% of employers surveyed said “good” when it comes to the workforce training programs there, but nearly the same responded “unknown.”

Dean Cliff Coppersmith says there are extraordinary opportunities for students who emerge from City College with a 1 year certificate and a 2 year Associate Degree.

“The highest entering salary at MSUB is in one of our programs with a 2 year Associate Degree in Process Plant Technology,” Coppersmith says. “We had a student last year who started at $78,000 a year at one of the refineries.”

Still, Coppersmith says the biggest challenge at City College and neighboring Career Center is they are unknown.

“I don’t think this is unique to Billings at all,” says Commissioner of Higher Education Clayton Christian.

He says higher education needs to make sure students are getting an education. “For what the businesses need,” Christian says. “But then communicating that they have those skill sets and are ready to participate in the workforce.”

Christian, Coppersmith, Anderson, and Rocky Mountain College administrator Stephen Germic  were part of a panel to discuss the findings presented at the 2016 State of the Workforce Event.

The survey also found employers report they are impacted by the global shortage of talented workers and it is hampering the ability of some to grow their business in Yellowstone County.