Career Pathways Initiative



Workforce Region One will be the focus for the Montana team’s Career Pathways initiative. Region one includes seven western counties and the Flathead Indian Reservation.

Region One has been heavily impacted by the economic downturn had the highest UI claims in the state in 2009. This region has also experienced more reductions in workforce and business closures than any other area in the state. Unemployment rates in the seven counties continues to be among the highest in Montana, with the timber industry experiencing the most dramatic loss of jobs during the past year.


The national recession has left Montana with a current unemployment rate of 7.3%. Data shows that Montana’s adult population has 26.3% with some college with no degree, and 29.1% with a high school diploma or equivalency. It is estimated that by 2018, 62% of all jobs in Montana will require some college education, and between 2008 — 2018 Montana will create 155,000 jobs with 96,000 requiring a college degree or credential. One out of every five Montana workers is over 55 years old, while the percentage of traditional college age Montanans (18-24 years old) is expected to decrease over the next several years.

Governor Brian Schweitzer’s key workforce investment priorities for the state’s public workforce system are to provide career pathway information systems in the public schools that will engage the student in sound career and academic decisions, therefore increasing the chance of success in the workforce. Over the past several years, numerous state wide and regional projects have been initiated to improve adult credentialing, including some of the following more significant statewide projects:

  • Big Sky Pathways (Montana’s 16 Career Clusters) — February 2009
  • PEP Talk (Personalized Employment Plan) — February 2009
  • Statewide Incumbent Worker Training Program — Pilot 2007; Implementation 2009
  • College! Now (Program to increase postsecondary credential) — December 2009
  • Western Montana Regional Innovation Grant (Building on WIRED efforts) — Final report 2009
  • WorkKeys (Job skills assessment) — 2010-2011 Currently 8 pilots in Job Services Workforce Centers and 1 pilot in the Great Falls Public School District in conjunction with their alternative high school.
  • I-BEST (Increase rate ABE students enter in occupational education)
  • Federal Energy Sector Partnership Grant (Renewable energy trade occupations) — 2010
  • On the Job Training National Emergency Grant (targeting long-term unemployment)
  • State Health Care Workforce Development Grant - October 2010
  • Paving the Way--Building a Rigorous Big Sky Pathway in Construction — 2010
  • SWIB Youth Council Statewide GED Initiative — September 2010


The Montana team is currently focused on strengthening their connections with local stakeholders including businesses, and clarifying and defining their overall outcomes for the project. Team members are in the process of identifying gaps and tools to support local and statewide service and pathway project coordination so that they can increase collaboration among cross-system partnerships


Health care


The Montana team is happy to discuss our experiences with any of the above programs and initiatives.


Montana State Team

  • Leisa Smith, SWIB Director, DLI (State Team Career Pathways Technical Assistance Initiative Coordinator)
  • Suzanne Ferguson, WIA Unit Supervisor, DLI Programs and Oversight Bureau
  • Wolf Ametsbichler, Manager, Missoula Job Service Workforce Center & Missoula One-Stop System Operator (Located in Region I)
  • Margaret Bowles, Adult Basic & Literacy Education Specialist, Office of Public Instruction ( SWIB Youth Council Vice-Chair , Project Lead on the GED Statewide Initiative and coordinator for the Pilot I-Best Model pilot in Region I)
  • David Hall, College!Now Grant Manager, Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education
  • Dave Crum, Community Connections Manager, Great Falls Public Schools (SWIB Vice-Chair, SWIB Lifelong Learning Committee Chair engaged in pathways, credentialing, and I-Best projects)
  • Sheila Hogan, Executive Director, Career Training Institute (non-profit One Stop service program provider for WIA Adult/Youth, Displaced Homemaker, Older Worker, TANF-WORC, and SNAP employment and training programs)
  • Kris Juliar, Director, MT Office of Rural Health & Area Health Education Center MSU. (Chair for the Montana Healthcare Workforce Advisory Council — reports directly to the Board of Regents)
  • Valarie Smith, Montana SWIB, Director

Administrative Contacts (not on traveling team):

  • Dave Morey, Bureau Chief, 21st Century Workforce Technology, Apprenticeship & Training Bureau
  • Gary Wright, Bureau Chief, State Workforce Programs and Oversight
  • Pat Wise, Economic Development Specialist, Governor’s Office


No URL provided.


Leisa Smith
SWIB Director, DLI
Phone: 406-444-1609