– Over 300 middle school and high school students from across the state participated in career skills competitions, provided community service, and heard from Montana leaders at the 29th annual Jobs for Montana’s Graduates IGNITE Conference on Thursday.
Jobs for Montana’s Graduates operates in high schools and middle schools to identify and eliminate barriers to graduation. The Department of Labor & Industry program provides students an opportunity to practice decision making, critical thinking, leadership skills, and soft skills needed to gain employment. JMG encourages students to stay in school, graduate and successfully transition from school to employment, post-secondary education, apprenticeship, or military service.
“Jobs for Montana’s Graduates is making sure our students have the tools to reach their full potential,” Lt. Gov. Cooney said. “We can rest assured our future workforce will have the career and leadership skills required to graduate high school and pursue their next step.”
Students heard from Jimmy McAlister, a JMG student from Great Falls who represented Montana at the Jobs for America’s Graduates National Student Leadership Academy in Washington, D.C. McAlister was recognized as first place public speaker at the national leadership academy. Montana leaders including Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney, Superintendent Elsie Arntzen, and Mayor Bill Cole recognized students who placed in the nine careers skills competitions.
“Schools across Montana have built strong partnerships with Jobs for Montana’s Graduates to ensure that every student has the opportunity to succeed in school and after they graduate,” State Superintendent Elsie Arntzen said. “The Office of Public Instruction’s Montana Ready initiative is focused on promoting opportunities like JMG to provide students with workforce skills that will translate into post-secondary college, career, and military opportunities.”
Students from five middle schools and 31 high schools competed in nine events to demonstrate the career skills they learned over the past year. To learn about different career options, business owners volunteered to participate in a speed networking activity with students. Students also engaged in community service projects with partners Montana Rescue Mission, Zoo Montana, Alliance Adult Resource Center, Audubon Center of Montana and the Habitat for Humanity ReStore.
New to the conference this year is a partnership with Montana State University Blackstone Launchpad and One Montana to introduce students to entrepreneurship. Students in the workshop were challenged with working in a group and developing a business model that would solve a problem or provide a service to improve a student’s experience at school.
“Introducing Jobs for Montana’s Graduates students to entrepreneurship encourages our young people to have big ideas, think critically and overcome obstacles,” Erica Swanson, State Director of Jobs for Montana’s Graduates, said. “I’m thankful for the partnerships that make it possible to offer career skills early and ensure our youngest students are prepared to be innovative in a transforming workforce.”