Public servants paint bright future for new finishing trades program | Local
Gov. Greg Gianforte tried his hand at painting bridges on Tuesday, but never left Helena College’s airport campus, as part of the launch of a new program beginning in April at the college that teaches skills for finishing trades such as painting, drywall, finishing and glazing. .
The governor wore a virtual reality headset earlier to load a truck and then paint a bridge, using equipment that will be part of the Finishing Trades Institute of the Upper Midwest (FTIUM) course.
The program was funded in part by the Montana Legislature in the 2020-2021 session and was supported by the Governor. Tuesday’s press conference highlighted Montana’s newest vocational and technical training program and featured innovative high-tech equipment and demonstrations. The $2 million vocational and technical training program will be a mix of FTIUM, the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades and the college.
“This partnership is a really exciting opportunity for the state of Montana,” said Sandra Bauman, Dean and Executive Director of Helena College University of Montana.
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“We are all best served – the students, the school and our employer partners – when we can combine that academic training with those practical skills you can only learn in the workplace,” she said.
John Burcaw, director of college education for the Finishing Trades Institute Upper Midwest, thanked the state legislature for investing $550,000 in launching the program.
“This public/private partnership shows how we can really invest in the next generation of workers,” he said, calling it a catalyst for getting the program off the ground. He said his school invested $500,000.
He called the program a “new model of higher education” for the state.
Burcaw said the union apprenticeship program is critical to training a new generation of workers in Montana as there are plans to repair infrastructure and grow the state. He said there were six apprenticeship programs.
The Minnesota-based Upper Midwest Finishing Trades Institute states on its website that it is an “educational institute dedicated to developing professional tradespeople, improving their skills and certification of their qualifications in the Upper Midwest”.
Its programs include Commercial Decorator Painter, Coatings Applicator, Drywall Finisher, Glazier, Glass and Sign Technician.
Burcaw said it is an accredited institution and programs will have 20-25 students at a time and try to maintain an 8-1 student-teacher ratio. He said the capacity is unlimited. He said in Minnesota they had 450 apprentices.
The training is 6,000 hours, which takes about three years, and there are 460 hours of classroom instruction. Upon completion of the program, students earn an associate’s degree certificate and college credit. There is no cost for learning. He said in Minnesota they charge $400 for classroom instruction.
Burcaw said the average starting salary was $20 an hour.
He later said the school planned to build a 20,000 square foot building on two acres that it would rent from the airport to be used for hands-on training. He estimated the cost of the project at $1 million.
Charlie Meadows, commercial director of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, said his organization also donated $500,000.
“We are thrilled to bring these opportunities here to build a better future and pave the way to a better life for hundreds of working men and women,” he said.
In total, labor groups donated $1.5 million.
Governor Greg Gianforte thanked GOP Representatives Llew Jones of Conrad and David Bedey of Hamilton for securing House Bill 2 funding.
He said many well-paying jobs require specialized training, and investing in these jobs allows people to earn a good living and help build homes to help the state deal with a housing shortage and creating opportunity in Montana.
Gianforte said trades education is important to Montana’s future.
The governor then took part in a simulation with a virtual reality helmet in which he operated a cherry picker and did another exercise in which he painted a bridge. Large television screens showed the Governor’s progress.
In terms of operating a boom lift, it showed that he had made several mistakes.
“Did I kill someone? ” He asked.
The instructor told him no.
He then painted a bridge, holding a gadget that looked like a virtual paint sprayer. Although he is not Rembrandt, he has had more success than being a boom lift operator. The screen showed him which areas had too much and too little paint and which areas were perfect.
Associate Editor Phil Drake can be reached at 406-231-9021.