Big Sky Economic Development, City College, Billings Chamber of Commerce and the Billings Job Service partnered to address the development of our future workforce through the Workforce Development 2023 Forum held this week at City College.
The Forum featured keynote speaker Dr. Anthony Zeiss, known as a national leader in workforce development, a target industry analysis presentation and two panel discussions focused on developing Montana’s workforce. Dr. Zeiss is the president of Central Piedmont Community College, the largest community college in North Carolina, serving approximately 70,000 students per year.
The forum covered topics from increasing opportunities for our underemployed to safety training and workforce education. The two panel discussions focused on workforce resources available from the local and state government as well as challenges private sector businesses are currently facing.
Workforce Development 2023 was successful in engaging a broad variety of community members and attendees left with a sense of direction from an engaging dialogue on workforce goals and next steps. As Steve Arveschoug, Executive Director of Big Sky Economic Development stated, “Today’s event was a great first step in starting our work on some very important topics in our community. Now we must be focused on finding ways to fulfill the current and future workforce needs of local and prospective businesses.”
Dr. Zeiss applauded the Billings community for pro-actively coming together: “Most communities just have an economic development strategy, without a focus on workforce development.
Billings will soon have a very contemporary strategic plan to address both the issues employers are seeing in the market today and those that they will face over the next ten years.”
Through the interactive presentation, people in attendance were polled electronically in real-time to provide feedback regarding elements of workforce development covered by both Dr. Zeiss and the panels. With the help of Dr. Zeiss, a draft vision statement was developed and those in attendance helped identify issues and strategies to achieve the vision.
The group together created a draft vision statement for their efforts moving forward: By 2023, the Billings region will be the premier business-driven workforce development hub in the Rocky Mountain West.
Additionally, the group created some potential strategies to accomplish the vision statement.
Some of those strategies include:
• Convene education and business leaders to implement the strategies.
• City College high school career academies via dual credit programs.
• Teach job readiness certification to high school seniors, teach work ethics.
• Actively identify and recruit under skilled, under employed, dislocated workers and veterans.
• Businesses need to provide curricula advice and internships to educational organizations that produce their employees. Technical training should include industry-recognized certifications.
• Market technical careers better.
Big Sky Economic Development is Yellowstone County’s economic development arm. The organization is a public-private partnership of two agencies. Big Sky Economic Development Authority (EDA), the public agency, evolved from the Montana TradePort Authority in 1989. Created by the Yellowstone County Board of Commissioners, the EDA is tasked with facilitating the development of business that supports our community and quality of life. Big Sky Economic Development Corp., the private business side, was started in 2002. The EDC’s mission is to recruit primary sector businesses and retain and expand existing Yellowstone County businesses that support our community and quality of life. Over 120 of the county’s top businesses are member-investor partners in the EDC.