Analyzes educational trends and employment outcomes of Montana college students and graduates from 2001 to 2015 to help policymakers and stakeholders develop policies and degree programs that respond to regional workforce needs. 

“The State of Montana is committed to producing a high quality workforce that meets the demands of employers. With [the] state anticipating a worker shortage in the upcoming years, and with the costs of education continuing to escalate, the Montana Department of Labor & Industry (MTDLI) and the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education (OCHE) have joined forces to share data and create analytics that can be used by [the] state’s colleges to ensure that…workforce training systems are aligned with…economic needs. Utilizing this data will help students progress through educational programs and join the labor market quickly and efficiently, saving money for students, employers, and taxpayers” (p.5).

The report seeks to answer three key research questions: “(1) Do colleges produce enough graduates in the right programs to fill the types of jobs required by Montana employers? (2) Do graduates find jobs in Montana, thus helping to meet statewide worker demand? And (3) Does the geographical distribution of graduates match the distribution of worker demand in Montana?” (p.6). To answer these questions, “[t]he OCHE provided MTDLI with data on the graduates from the sixteen colleges that are included in the Montana University System data warehouse…from 2001 to 2015. Rocky Mountain College and Carroll College also agreed to participate in this report, providing data on their graduates over the same fifteen-year period” (p.6).

“The report is organized into five sections, with the first reviewing the demographic and program attendance information, answering the question `Who are Montana Students?’ The second section, `Graduate Workforce Outcomes,’ provides the employment and wage outcomes of graduates, including breakdowns by degree, program, geography, and industry. Continuing the evaluation, the third section, `Montana Supply and Demand Analysis,’ answers the primary research question of whether colleges are producing enough graduates in the right fields to meet statewide worker demand, with supply and demand analysis from four different perspectives. The wages by program are presented, providing helpful information for students choosing degree programs and businesses who are seeking workers. The fourth section looks at the geographical distribution of supply and demand, asking if employers throughout the state have enough workers to meet their demands. The fifth section concludes” with an overview of findings (p.6).

(Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)

Major Findings & Recommendations

In reviewing demographics of Montana college students, the report finds that: • “Two-year colleges tend to attract more non-traditional students, age 25 years and older who are from Montana and are interest[ed] in short-term job trainings. • Four-year college students are more commonly aged 18 to 24 and come directly from high school. About 33% of university students come from other states. • College enrollment has increased by 12% over the last ten years, driven by growth in two-year college enrollment. However, more students are enrolled in the Montana’s universities compared to two-year colleges” (p.32). The report next analyzes the workforce success of college graduates, noting that: • “Most graduates work in the state after graduation. Approximately 69% work for a Montana employer one year after graduation, and 74% will work for a Montana employer at some point after graduation. • Graduates work in every county in the state, demonstrating the important role of Montana colleges in workforce development throughout the state. • Graduates earn above the median wage in Montana within three years of graduation, and those working year-round earn above the median wage within a year of graduation” (p.59). The next section of the report investigates the extent to which Montana’s colleges meet the workforce needs of Montana employers. The report found that: • “Montana colleges have the capacity to meet demand for 67% of high-demand occupations in the state. If employers find it difficult to fill these occupations, then the issue is likely about distribution and retention, not capacity. • Montana colleges have the capacity to meet estimated demand for registered nurses in the state. However, in order to meet demand employers will need to hire both associate-trained and bachelor-trained registered nurses” (p.83). The fourth section explores how Montana colleges contribute to their local regions to understand the supply and demand of college graduates. Some of the findings include: • “Montana colleges are an important source of labor in their local communities. Employers hire most of their graduates from colleges located in their region. • The rural areas of the state have more significant unmet demand than the populated regions. Eighty percent of high-demand occupations in the Eastern region cannot be filled with existing programs at the colleges in that region” (p.93). (Abstractor: Author & Website Staff)