GFPS piloting BuildMT program for heavy equipment career education
Great Falls Public Schools is adding a new component to its career and technical education program in January.
BuildMT is a a heavy equipment program created by the Montana Contractors Association and implemented in Billings.
This pathway is currently led/taught by industry partners in the Billings area, according to GFPS officials.
District officials are planning to begin offering their version of BuildMT in January to provide a heavy machinery option to seniors.
Brian Tucker and Mark Yaeger of the district’s CTE program recruited local industry partners. The district currently has eight local industry partners collaborating on the program, officials told the school board during their Nov. 13 meeting.
Those partners include RDO Equipment; Torgerson’s; Tri-State Truck and Equipment; Central Plumbing, Heating, Excavation; Pacific Steel and Recycling; Sletten Construction; Tractor and Equipment’ and Dick Anderson Construction.
GFPS officials told the board that they’d just heard they gotten approval for the Air Force’s local RED HORSE involvement.
The GFPS Built MT program will use the curriculum created by the Montana Contractors Association, which includes John Deere University, OSHA 10 training, hands-on safety training, soft skills and hands-on experience operating heavy equipment machinery.
Daily instruction and student management for the district’s program will be led by Joe Wilkins, an industrial technology teacher with GFPS.
The Montana Contractors Association will provide some of the personal protective equipment for the program, but additional items may be required and the Montana Advanced Opportunity Act and federal Perkins grant money will be used to help offset those costs, according to GFPS officials.
GFPS officials are hoping to start the program in January with nine students.
Beckie Frisbee, a curriculum coordinator, said that the program isn’t covering new careers but hopes to expose students to those careers and create new career pathways for heavy equipment work.
Wilkins said the program will have classroom and lab time as well as hands on experience at live job sites and industry shops.
“We’re really putting together a futuristic program,” he said. “It gives students a huge look at what goes on.”
The district doesn’t have the funds to have heavy equipment for students to train on, but industry partners do.
We don’t have the money to get equipment to train on, but industry partners do and they’re hoping to retain students in the Great Falls area as part of the local workforce.
Yaeger said that with the existing CTE programs and current welding cohort of students, they’re on track to be able to funnel students through the one semester credit program toward the possibility of internships or job offers upon graduation.
Frisbee said the program benefits students and the district, but also local industry by helping them train and grow a pool of future employees.
She said the John Deere portion of the curriculum was chosen over other models since it’s written at a high school level.
Jen Ulsh, talent acquisition recruiter from Sletten, told the school board that the program is “really exciting” and the company supports it as a way for them and other local industries to grow their own workforce.
Jack Murray of T&E Equipment told the board that the program will build awareness for students of careers in heavy equipment.
He said of the industry partners involved so far, some are fierce competitors but are aligned in their interest of growing the workforce.
GFPS officials said they were in conversation with Great Falls College about the possibility of allowing dual credit for the program.