University of Montana — Goal 2 Initiative AccelerateMT

The University of Montana will establish an organization named AccelerateMT focused on closely partnering with employers and the state to address workforce constraints that slow economic growth. The University of Montana will achieve this through innovative approaches to workforce readiness and development programs, private and public sector partnerships, and entrepreneurial and business growth services.

Montana faces workforce constraints that are slowing economic growth; we lag neighboring states in private sector job creation. Geographic size and low population density make access to education and training very difficult in remote areas of the state. Low degree attainment statewide and particularly in remote areas hinders economic development. To combat this and provide in-demand training for individuals and employers to meet workforce needs of today, the initiative will increase 2-yr and 4-yr degree attainment. 

Rapidly changing economy means that all workers – even those with higher degrees – need additional training and upskilling throughout their careers. Estimated 50% of workers will need reskilling by 2025, but there is currently no comprehensive, statewide re-skilling program to ensure Montana's workers can adapt and succeed. COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated this challenge for largest employment sectors (e.g., healthcare, hospitality and tourism, technology) of Montana's economy.  

The initiative will provide easy access – in close partnership with employers and industry associations – to training and certification on the in-demand skills employers need by working closely with employers to build short-term, collaborative training programs with clear pathways to jobs. AccelerateMT will be a visible and measurable demonstration of the public good provided by public higher education while honoring the reality that learning and working do and must happen simultaneously across a person's lifetime.  

By partnering closely with employers and industry associations, AccelerateMT is rapidly developing short-term training and education solutions to help employers enhance and retain their existing workforce, as well as build a pipeline of employees to help them meet emerging needs. AccelerateMT also supports innovators, entrepreneurs and businesses across the state with coaching, advice and specialized programs help them launch or grow their business. We are eager to expand this effort to better serve our state’s workforce and provide additional opportunities for our students and graduates.

Seth Bodnar, University of Montana

Initiative Differentiators

AccelerateMT aims to much more deliberately blur the lines between public and private by creating statewide resources to ensure a sufficiently educated workforce and immediately responsive training programs that meet employer needs. To do so, AccelerateMT will co-design training programs alongside business and industry partners, ensure a suite of industry-recognized credentials, develop a consistent and rigorous system for understanding employer and industry needs, and build internal capacity and agility to do this work. We will build a team of career advisors/coaches to provide wraparound support to learners in identifying, enrolling, and progressing through career awareness, readiness and progression programs.

Key Interventions and Milestones

AccelerateMT will work alongside private and public sector employers to develop training programs for their current employees; a "B2B" model that helps employers develop their own workforce. Strong partnership with Montana DLI will help to identify workforce needs and provide case management to assist individuals in transition from training to workforce.  

AccelarateMT will work with industry and government to develop public and private sector models for funding/investing in talent development and reducing the barriers to career access and progression for learners/workers from all backgrounds. Such programs will not only address training costs/affordability but provide mentoring, experiential learning and apprenticeship type opportunities that increase the chances of progression from training to job. The initiative will significantly expand portfolio of UMOnline offerings – 2-yr, 4-yr, and certificates – that Montanans can access from anywhere in the state. 

Expected Impact

AccelerateMT aims to raise the skills base of the Montana workforce; raise the earning capacity of the Montana workforce; develop talent to fill open positions across the State; foster innovation and entrepreneurship to support new business launches and existing business growth; and create robust workforce development infrastructure to ensure that Montana's workforce can adapt to the changing needs of our economy. 

Specifically, AccelerateMT will have accomplished the following program metrics by the end of the two-year startup period: 10 Corporate training programs each year with an average of 3 sessions per program and an average of 20 employees per session; 20 new UMOnline offerings including 2-yr, 4-yr and industry-recognized certificates; a yearly average of 100 badges and micro-credentials awarded; and a yearly average of 300 business support services provided thru the Innovation Factory, MonTEC, AMRI, SBDC, PTAC, BLP, PYP, WBC and MWTC.