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State Department grant brings workforce experts to University of Montana

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Mansfield center

Workforce experts from around the world are spending this summer in Missoula, thanks to a $1.75 million State Department grant.

The University of Montana’s Maureen and Mike Mansfield Center announced the funding in a press release Tuesday. Provided by the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the grant supports one of the State Department’s Study of the U.S. Institutes (SUSI), which bring international scholars and professionals to American universities.

UM has hosted these SUSI programs in the past, and is sponsoring three this summer. It hosted one on secondary education in June, and will host another, on natural resources, in August. The current institute, funded by the just-announced $1.75 million, focuses on “youth, workforce development and closing the skills gap.”

The State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs “acknowledged that this was an important theme, given the strengths of the state of Montana,” said Deena Mansour, the Mansfield Center’s interim administrative director.

“What they really appreciated about the way we framed the workforce project was demonstrating the capacity to incorporate communities in a variety of ways, using education, the private sector and government to support the development of skills in youth.”

Led by Theresa Floyd at the UM College of Business, the 18 scholars are traveling around western Montana, participating in panels and visiting area employers like LumenAd, Blackfoot Communications, S&K Technologies, and Wilson Logistics. In addition to UM, Salish Kootenai College, Helena College and Flathead Valley Community College are also involved. The group will also spend time in Oklahoma, Georgia and Washington, DC.

After three weeks in Montana, Professor Ramzi Asali of Al-Quds University in the West Bank gave the program high marks. “The discussions we’ve had so far have been instrumental in dispelling misconceptions and stereotypical images that we may have had before, and to connect us together in a way that creates common ground and underlines similarities rather than differences,” he said, in a statement provided by Mansour.

The $1.75 million grant that funded this institute will be renewed for each of the next two years, based on performance and funding availability.

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