May 15, 2008



Kim Gillan, College of Professional Studies and Lifelong Learning, 896-5878
Dan Carter, University Relations, 657-2269


MSU Billings co-hosts two-day event in Downtown Billing


MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — With the Montana economy rolling along at a steady 4 percent growth rate and continuing demands on employers to address training and education needs, new strategies need to be in place for workforce growth and development, according to organizers for the 2008 Governor’s Workforce Conference scheduled for next week in Billings.


Montana State University Billings is assisting the governor’s office on the two-day event that will address a myriad of issues related to the state’s vibrant and diverse economy.


The governor’s workforce conference titled “Meeting the Challenge: Montana’s Workforce on the Move,” will be held Wednesday and Thursday, May 21-22 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Downtown Billings. It will feature discussions on dealing with an intergenerational workforce; helping employers train new workers; developing partnerships between labor and education; and building Montana’s “green collar” workforce.


The cost is $35 for the two days and includes a Wednesday evening reception. Space is still available and there is still time to register, organizers said.  


Kim Gillan, workforce development coordinator with the MSU Billings College of Professional Studies and Lifelong Learning, is helping with implementation of the conference. She said the goal of the event is to help employers and state officials make new connections that can help keep Montana growing.


“The idea is to help ‘grow’ employees so that they will be of value no matter where they go to work,” said Gillan.


Unemployment rates in Montana continue to hover around 3.5 percent. Meanwhile, economists with the University of Montana’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research predict that growth with continue at about 4 percent a year in the foreseeable future. That means employers need to find new ways to deal with workforce issues.


One of those is tapping into resources available through the state Office of Labor and Industry, said Andy Poole, assistant director who will lead a panel discussion about training new workers at the conference.


“There are many resources out there that many people aren’t aware of,” said Poole.


One of those resource areas, he said, is a pool of dollars that companies can use to expand into Montana and train new workers. That new worker training program, given funding of $4 million by the 2007 Legislature, is a tool that Montana can use to attract new businesses, Poole said.


“It doesn’t matter if it is for one or 20 employees,” he said. “It is open to all companies that are expanding here,” he said.


Gillan and Poole said that many other resources that are available for businesses will also be discussed during the conference, including linking Montana’s education and industry partners and developing the state’s “green collar” workforce.


Those issues and others to be addressed at the conference can be found through registration can be done through the university’s web site ( and clicking on the “Meeting the Challenge” ad on the home page.


The agenda for the conference is below:


Wednesday May 21 / Crowne Plaza Hotel
1-1:15 p.m.: Welcome
1:15-2 p.m.: Opening Remarks by Gov. Brian Schweitzer
2-33 p.m.: Opening Plenary - "Culture Clash": Managing the Intergenerational Workplace
3-3:15 p.m.: Break
3:15-5 p.m.: Concurrent Workshops

  • An Economic Study of Montana’s Early Childhood Industry — Building A Ready Workforce for Tomorrow
    Moderator: Mike Halligan, Executive Director, Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation
  • New Partnerships in Apprenticeship: Labor – Education – Business
    Moderator: Mark Maki, State Director of Apprenticeship, Montana Department of Labor and Industry
  • Helping Employers Train New Workers
    Moderator: Andy Poole, Deputy Director, Montana Department of Commerce
  • Montana’s Twenty-first Century Workforce
    Moderator: Dore Schwinden, Deputy Commissioner Montana Department of Labor and Industry

5:30-7 p.m.: Sponsored Reception

Thursday May 22 / Crowne Plaza Hotel
7:30-9 a.m.: Policymakers Breakfast

  • Keith Kelly, Commissioner, Department of Labor and Industry
  • Linda McCulloch, Superintendent, Office of Public Instruction
  • Tony Preite, Director, Department of Commerce
  • Sheila Stearns, Commissioner, Office of Higher Education
  • Dan Miles, Chair, State Workforce Investment Board

9-10:30 a.m.: Concurrent Workshops

  • Connecting the Dots: Services through Montana’s DLI
    Moderator: Keith Kelly, Commissioner, Montana Department of Labor and Industry
  • Bringing Montana Workers Home
    Moderator: Chris Aageson, Governor’s Office of Economic Development
  • Linking Education and Industry -- Assessing and Certifying Work Skills
    Moderator: Tommy Thompson, Executive Director WIN
  • Montana’s Green Collar Workforce: What We’ve Started
    Moderator: Hal Harper, Chief Policy Advisor, Governor’s Office

10:30-10:45 Break
10:45-Noon:  Closing Plenary - Center for State Innovation: Growing Montana's Workforce
12:30-2:30 Local Industry Educational Sites.


 For more information, see the link at Gillan can be reached at 896-5878.