A group of 10 high school seniors in Billings and three seniors in Kalispell took part in the second full year of the Build Montana program, a partnership between the Montana Contractors’ Association (MCA), the Montana Equipment Dealers’ Association, and the MCA Education Foundation.
The program is designed to expose students to the construction industry and show them the opportunities it holds through industry-grade training courses and real jobsite experiences.
John Hurd, RDO Equipment Co. – Billings Store Manager, has been closely involved with the program since its inception. This year marked the second class of Billings students to complete the program following last year’s pilot effort.
“We had great momentum coming into year two with some expansions and new employer-partners committed to making the experience even more valuable for our students,” he said. “And now as we wrap up the year, I can say it was a complete success.”
Watch: Build Montana in Action
Growth of Build Montana was a primary goal following year one, and this year’s expansion to Kalispell proved a successful extension.
There, RDO Store Manager Jake Fitzsimmons and the RDO team partnered with contractor Schellinger Construction to bring Build Montana’s immersive industry and career experiences to students from Flathead High School.
In both Billings and Kalispell, the Build Montana students completed a combination of online and in-person coursework during the three-month program, covering topics including machine and jobsite safety as well as machine components and function, machine operation, and construction engineering and technology.
Worksite experiences in Billings were offered by RDO, Knife River, COP Construction, Yellowstone Road and Bridge Dept., and Tri-State Trucking and Equipment. Knife River, in addition to Schellinger Construction, was a participating partner in Kalispell, along with the RDO team. Through these experiences, students toured jobsites and got direct experiences with autonomous machine control, drone aerial mapping and surveying, and, of course, time inside the cabs of heavy equipment.
“I can’t say enough about our students, who were kind, respectful, and eager to learn all throughout the year, and the many partners and supporters who continue to make Build Montana such a rewarding experience,” John said. “We learned plenty again this year, but we’re already seeing the positive effects this program is having in our community and across the state.”
Those effects are positioned to spread further in coming years, as plans are in place to expand Build Montana to even more cities and students in the state in 2023.