MISSOULA – Power saws whirred, drills buzzed and 2-by-4-inch lumber clattered together recently as the first class of students in Missoula College’s new Job Site Ready construction program gained the skills they need to start entry-level jobs in construction.
The program is one of the ways Missoula College is working with industry partners to help meet workforce needs and recruit younger generations into the construction industry, as the demand for skilled workers in Montana outpaces supply.
The 45-hour program, which includes 30 hours of self-paced online learning followed by 15 hours of in-person training, provides students with an understanding of the construction industry, job safety, hand and power tool operation and construction processes and techniques.
During the weeklong onsite training held June14-18, program participants gained hands-on experience marking, measuring and cutting wood to build a shed, while putting into practice online lessons about workplace safely.
Upon completion of the course, students leave with their own set of professional tools and the credentials needed to be hired as an entry-level construction worker.
“They're walking off with not only the physical tools but also a holistic overview of what they're going to be required to do, general terminology for the job site, how to use a tool,” said Steve Rosbarsky, an adjunct instructor of the program.
The Job Site Ready construction program is available as a Montana University System credit option, as non-credit workforce training, or for pre-apprenticeship hours.
“The program focuses on helping students become workforce ready through short, accessible and affordable classes that give people the skills they need to get a job,” said John Freer, director of Missoula College’s Sustainable Construction Technology program..
The self-paced online portion of the program can be completed from any location and Missoula College is working to make the onsite training available across the state by partnering with two-year institutions in Bozeman, Hamilton, Great Falls and Billings. Hellgate High School students also will be able to earn college credit for the program through a dual enrollment pilot beginning next year, Freer said.
“We spent a whole generation telling kids that they needed to get a four-year degree and now, we have a huge gap in skilled labor,” Freer said. “We’re also starting to recognize that the construction industry has some of the best high-paying entry level jobs and it's one of the easiest industries to advance in.”
Freer said Missoula College worked with contractors and industry partners while developing the program to identify the most important skills that workers need on their first day on a job site for construction. Some companies such as Jackson Contractor Group, have already sponsored a handful of high school students to take the course after hiring them to be junior apprentices for the summer.
“It helps the contractor because they can pay for the training and they don’t have to stop what they’re doing to provide it,” Freer said.
Dain Simunovich, a 17-year-old rising senior at Hellgate High School, is one of the students who completed the Job Site Ready program with sponsorship from Jackson Contractor Group. Simunovich, who wants to study engineering in college and work on the design side of the industry, said he’s excited to get a sense of how a construction job site works as he spends the summer working in construction.
“I plan on using this apprenticeship as an opportunity to see how a company like this works, to get some experience and use it as a way to further my education,” said Simunovich.
The program costs $750, which includes the training and a set of tools valued at about $250. Rosbarsky said he and Freer selected the tools based on their years of experience and knowledge of what workers need.
“They’re getting a high-quality set so they can feel confident to show up on their first day as a professional,” Rosbarsky said.
Contact: Dave Kuntz, UM strategic communications director, 406-243-5659, firstname.lastname@example.org.