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The Missoula Chamber provides resources to help businesses succeed. To that end, we closely engage our members to better understand their needs and to develop relevant, helpful resources. What we have heard loud and clear from our member businesses is that finding employees with the specific skills they need is becoming increasingly difficult.

We believe this trend will only continue given changing demographics, changing employment needs, and Missoula’s tight labor market. Indeed, Missoula will face a workforce shortage over the next decade across many industry sectors, including health care, technical services, and business services. This workforce shortage looks to be one of the biggest challenges Missoula businesses will encounter in the coming years.

I am proud to say that the Chamber recognizes the seriousness of the workforce shortage, and is pursuing collaborative initiatives to help Missoula businesses to better meet their workforce needs. The Chamber’s Workforce Development and Education Committee is primarily responsible for this work. The committee is a strong and active group composed of representatives from our many partner organizations – education institutions, state and local government, economic development organizations, and our Chamber member businesses.

Because workforce development is a high priority for the Chamber, this year’s State of Missoula event on Tuesday, Jan. 19, at 11 a.m. at the Double Tree will be focused on addressing Montana’s workforce shortage and changing employment needs.

Attendees will learn about the variety of initiatives, both state and local, and certification-based programs geared towards further developing Missoula’s workforce.

State and local representatives will be addressing innovative ways to shorten the time period between school and productive employment using nontraditional approaches, like apprenticeships, that allow employees to work while they learn and develop new skills. Traditional classroom training and on the job training are both important components needed to create qualified employees.

Speakers will cover a variety of topics including earning potential and nontraditional education in various occupations, innovative programs for students, and customized training and educational programs for local businesses. Speakers will also share innovative ways for employers to attract and retain skilled workers.

I encourage folks from Missoula businesses to attend. The topic is highly relevant to businesses in all sectors, and the information provided will prepare you to better meet your firm’s labor needs as the workforce shortage continues.

Contact Kimberly Hannon for registration information, and contact me for more details about the event, (543-6623).

Sam Sill is the director of government affairs at the Missoula Area Chamber of Commerce.

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