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Great Falls Public Schools adding 'Build Montana' program

GFPS to pilot Build Montana Program.png
Posted at 3:48 PM, Nov 27, 2023

GREAT FALLS — In an effort to set students up for success in the construction industry, Great Falls Public Schools is launching a new program as part of their Career and Technical Education program.

The District's Build Montana program will provide students with hands-on training through operating heavy equipment machinery.

Build Montana is partnership between the Montana Contractors Association, the Montana Equipment Dealers’ Association, and the MCA Education Foundation design to generate excitement and promote careers in construction.

Joe Wilkins will be instructing the program. Wilkins currently serves as the Teacher for Industrial Arts at Paris Gibson Education Center.

"I want them to have not a job but a career," Wilkins said. "I feel the construction industry is very rich in careers and good careers, and I'd like to keep our home talents home."

GFPS is collaborating with various partners on the program, including:

  • Torgerson’s
  • RDO Equipment
  • Central Plumbing, Heating, Excavation
  • Tri-State Truck and Equipment
  • Sletten Construction
  • Pacific Steel and Recycling
  • Tractor and Equipment
  • Dick Anderson Construction

Since GFPS is limited with funding and resources, the partners will get to provide the equipment for students to train on.

Matt Hoyer is the Equipment Manager for Sletten Construction. He explained the importance that collaboration plays in a program such as this.

"I think we have a lot of horsepower in the Great Falls community with the partners that we have acquired for this," Hoyer. "There's unlimited opportunities for travel, mostly worldwide with the companies that are here."

GFPS hopes to kick off the program in January with nine students. Officials said seniors will get priority, but juniors can be considered. Students would also get one semester of credit.

According to Wilkins, 60 hours will be spent in the classroom. There will also be 60 hours spent through John Deere University's online training course. 64 hours will be spent doing hands on work alongside champion partners.

GFPS is also in conversations with Great Falls College MSU for the possibility of allowing dual credit.

Great Falls High School Senior, Dayton Liscum has experience in farming and agriculture. Liscum has also worked alongside Wilkins, and expressed his interest in the program.

Liscum said, "With my CDL and everything, this is very big for me, especially in my senior year. I could go on to any place I want to with this program, so this would help me out a bunch."

Expected to start in the spring semester, Wilkins said he views a program such as this to be a win-win, not just for the district and the students, but also for the community.

"Our community gets an educated workforce," he said. Our school district gets to work with some very great talent and get to work with our community members to bring to the table some potential employees that are fit for our community and can easily dovetail into the community careers that are out there."

To learn more about Build Montana, click here.