Montana Governor Invests $6 Million to Strengthen Workforce

HELENA,MT (STL.News) Governor  Greg Gianforte today announced the investment of $6 million to strengthen Montana’s workforce and provide job training to Montanans, particularly to individuals with disabilities and those who have become unemployed since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Helping Montanans acquire the in-demand skills needed to fill good-paying jobs is a top priority,” Gov. Gianforte said. “These investments will help more Montana workers access skills training programs, helping them enter or reenter the workforce or boost their careers to the next level while alleviating our workforce shortage in critical industries.”

Gov. Gianforte approved the use of $2 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Employment Engagement Program, which augments the Department of Public Health and Human Services’ (DPHHS) Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) services.

DPPHS VR provides services to individuals with disabilities to obtain, regain, maintain, and advance in employment.  The funding approved will supplement existing VR staff by temporarily adding 10 additional full-time rehabilitation counselors, opening the door to approximately 1,000 additional individuals with disabilities to participate in the program.  Approximately 1,300 individuals are on the program’s waitlist.

“This funding is going to have a tremendous impact on the people our agency serves,” DPHHS Director Adam Meier said. “The opportunity to add additional rehabilitation counselors will allow us to work with our clients who are currently on the waiting list.  These individuals are ready and willing to work, and just need the opportunity.  We’re excited to increase these efforts across the state to connect our clients with training, assisted technology and other tools that will help set them up to successfully enter the work force.”

The governor also approved an additional $4 million in ARPA funds for the Department of Labor & Industry (DLI) to provide “rapid retraining” services and enroll Montanans in workforce training programs.

The funds will allow the department to utilize an existing state network of contracted workforce program providers to provide critical training, primarily for those who lost their jobs during the pandemic and need new skills to reenter the workforce.  The funds will be used to conduct and support short-term skills training for Montanans including displaced workers such as those in Colstrip or St. Regis.

“This funding will enable the department to strengthen our already-robust network of workforce service providers and help more Montanans benefit from the training programs they provide.  The end result will be more Montana workers with the skills they need to succeed,” DLI Commissioner Laurie Esau said.

The governor accepted the $6 million funding recommendations from the ARPA Economic Transformation and Stabilization and Workforce Development Programs and Advisory Commission.  ARPA advisory commissions comprise state legislators, agency leaders, and administration officials.  More information about the advisory commissions may be found at arpa.mt.gov.