In a previous post I listed some ideas for finding, or creating, a high wage job in Montana. Let’s talk about another point.
Acquire A Manufacturing or Construction Skill
Montana has a growing manufacturing sector. While this is mostly concentrated in the Flathead, Great Falls, and Lewistown, there are manufacturers all over Montana. Nationally, manufacturing companies provide some of the highest wage jobs. Our Montana two-year colleges provide training in welding and machining that can prepare people for skilled work in manufacturing. As high tech jobs have boomed in Gallatin County, construction payroll has also shot up, creating high wage jobs building homes.
Tom Spika, chairman of the Montana Manufacturing Council, and owner of Spika Design and Manufacturing in Lewistown, says it best: “If we want to grow our economy, we need to look at what has the best potential, and to me manufacturing has that potential.” Tom also acknowledges there is a major skills gap in Montana’s manufacturing sector, which has prompted my establishment of the Gianforte Manufacturing scholarship, a grant that provides financial assistance to lower-income students and veterans pursuing manufacturing or industrial education at a two-year college in Montana (see my December post about it here).
One benefit of this scholarship is that I get to hear great stories about how people are using it to create better livelihoods for themselves and their families through the manufacturing industry.
Levi Hunt is in the manufacturing program at Flathead Valley Community College, and a recipient of the Gianforte Manufacturing Scholarship. He shared some of his story with me.
Q: What drew you to the manufacturing program?
A: I have a wife and three kids. I grew up in Helena, but our family moved to the Flathead where my wife’s family lives. I was done with the career I had before and wanted to find something I could do and still stay here in the Flathead, while getting a comparable wage to what I used to make. I used to be a military contractor and was making pretty good money, but wanted to be able to stay home and not travel as much. I had a hard time finding something here with a comparable wage that could support my family. I like to create things and work with metals, so machines came naturally to me. Quality control seemed like a good fit, but even those positions require some background and understanding of manufacturing. The program at the school sounded like the perfect avenue to get experience and certification in manufacturing.
“The program at the school sounded like the perfect avenue to get experience and certification in manufacturing.”
I have two more semesters in the program and graduate next spring. Having the manufacturing scholarship really helps with the living expenses while I am in school, and cuts down on the student debt I will have when I graduate. It’s provided some relief to our family during this time.
Q: What are your plans for after graduation?
A: In spring 2016 I plan to enter the job market. I’d like to stay in the Flathead where my family is established. Preferably I’d like to work in quality control or design and development. I really want to work with machines and do the programming, not just push the buttons. There are a lot of manufacturing companies in the Flathead, and a lot of your success after graduating comes from the work you put into school when you’re there. It’s a good program, and you have to really work hard and learn your stuff while you’re there to do well afterwards.
“There are a lot of manufacturing companies in the Flathead, and a lot of your success after graduating comes from the work you put into school when you’re there.”
Do you have other ideas on how to bring high wage jobs to Montana? Please let me know your thoughts.
Stay tuned for my next post, where we discuss another way you can increase your high wage job prospects in Montana.