Develop your workforce: A how-to guide


Construction employs about 26,000 people statewide and accounts for about $3 billion of Montana’s Gross Domestic Product. Despite the influence the construction industry wields in our state, MCA members struggle on a daily basis with attracting new, skilled employees. According to the AGC’s 2018 Construction Outlook, 80 percent of firms struggle to find qualified employees. Your business can be part of the solution.

Whether your business is small, medium, or large, seemingly minor efforts on your part can have a major impact on the career choices of students in your community. The construction industry needs to reach Montanans at a young age to let them know jobs in construction can provide a fulfilling future. If you think about it, we can’t afford NOT to let them know.

Let’s get started!

Make contact

K-12 Schools

For many employers, this seems like one of the hardest steps on the road to helping build our workforce. However, it’s nothing to be nervous about. Here are some easy instructions to follow to make that initial contact with educators in your area:

  • Locate a list of K-12 schools in your area by visiting the Montana Office of Public Instruction’s online directory: 
  • Most Montana schools have their own websites, so visit those websites to search for the names of industrial arts or vo-ag instructors. Make note of their contact information (phone numbers and email addresses). No instructors specific to the trades? No problem – the school counselor or administrators will work too.
  • Send an email introducing yourself and your company. Click here to view an example email.

​Remember, schools are busy places – a lot like construction companies. Follow up with a phone call to your contact at the school if you don’t hear back right away. Don’t give up! Keep trying to make contact.

Two-year Colleges, Certificate Programs

Montana’s two-year colleges and certificate programs are valuable resources for future employees. Click here to view a list of programs and colleges in Montana.

Administrators of these trade programs are dedicated to working with industry in Montana to ensure they are providing the appropriate education and skills for their students to be successful when they enter the workforce. They want to hear from you!

In addition, they recognize the value of making connections between the students in their programs and businesses – it’s a great way to ensure their students find employment in a timely manner after graduation. 

Use the list of colleges and programs above to make connections in your community and find out how you can get involved.

Make an impression

Know your audience

It’s no surprise that one size does not fit all. The same goes for communicating with students of different ages. Keep this in mind when you coordinate your introductory/planning visits with teachers and administrators. Go in to these visits with some ideas for activities, and be prepared to learn how to work best with the teachers, class schedules, etc. so your message is heard loud and clear by the students.

Here are some activity ideas for different age groups:

K-5th Grade – Keep your visits short and full of hands-on activity!

  • Build structures with marshmallows and toothpicks, or legos.
  • Construction-related coloring pages.
  • Bring equipment to the school for the children to see and touch.
  • Give the children plastic hardhats to wear.
  • Crafts with concrete.
  • Provide short tours of construction sites.
  • Tell students about fun things they could do in construction jobs. (get dirty, drive heavy equipment, build bridges, and more)

6th – 8th Grade – Be prepared to provide more information than for younger students, but again, keep the students actively involved.

  • Provide tours of work sites, talk about jobs at site.
  • Bring drones, etc. to the school and talk about technology in the construction industry.
  • Teach a simple construction math class.
  • Visit an industrial arts class to help students with welding, carpentry projects.
  • Share information about different construction career paths.

9th – 12th Grade – Show students what is involved in jobs in construction, and help them understand how to pursue that career path.

  • Provide tours of work sites, talk about jobs at site.
  • Bring drones, etc. to the school and talk about technology in the construction industry.
  • Teach a construction math class.
  • Visit an industrial arts class to help students with welding, carpentry projects.
  • Share information about different construction career paths, how to get necessary training.
  • Volunteer to provide job shadowing opportunities on your work sites.
  • Establish an internship program. Laws are in place governing this, so work closely with your HR staff and the Montana Department of Labor and Industry to iron out the details.

It’s also helpful to bring age-appropriate giveaway items to keep the students engaged, like logoed water bottles, pens, phone accessories, etc. Plus, websites like Build Your Future – – offer posters and handouts related to careers in construction.

Be creative! These are just a few ideas to get you started building your relationships with teachers and students.

Not sure what to say to students?

The MCA Education Foundation has built a powerpoint to help you get your message across.

​Opportunities to connect

Building partnerships

Marketers don’t agree on the exact number, but it’s clear it takes more than one contact with a buyer to make a sale. In fact, it probably takes more like 15 to 20 contacts. Convincing Montana students and their parents that jobs in construction are an exciting and viable career option is no different.  

Once you have made contact with schools in your community, look for ways to build that relationship into a long-term partnership. 

  • Can you plan to visit with different classes about different types of construction careers in the future?
  • Would it be possible to schedule class visits to construction sites?
  • Does the industrial arts teacher need materials or equipment? Can your business help with that?
  • Can your company offer job shadow opportunities to interested students? What about internships?

Bottom line: Don’t leave that school without opening the door for another opportunity to share your excitement about careers in construction with students!

How the MCA helps

While the main responsibility for building strong relationships with schools needs to be shouldered – to a large degree – by MCA member companies, the MCA Education Foundation does help with this effort. 

How do we do that?

  • MCA Education Foundation Construction Trades Awareness Grants for Montana industrial arts instructors – As part of the application to receive one of these $1,000 grants, industrial arts instructors are asked how they plan to partner with MCA members in their area to execute their plan for the grant dollars. Last year, MCA members assisted in the construction of new welding benches, provided tours of worksites, and more. In some cases, those relationships have continued to grow. 
  • Construction Week – Every year during Construction Week, the MCA encourages its members to reach out to schools in their areas to schedule visits to schools, field trips to construction sites, etc. In addition, the MCA publicizes Construction Week opportunities to Montana teachers to increase participation. When we receive calls from teachers looking to make connections, we either provide them with MCA member contact information, or serve as a liaison between the school and member.
  • MCA Toolbox – The MCA Toolbox on the website serves as a clearinghouse for wish lists from Montana industrial arts instructors for tools, equipment, materials and more. MCA member companies can check the MCA Toolbox to find out what schools in their areas need to better serve students through their industrial arts programs, and supply those items. This exchange provides a great reason for MCA members to connect with teachers, and a starting point to build upon that relationship.

While these items don’t directly build relationships between the construction industry and Montana schools, they do raise the MCA’s profile as a supporter and promoter of careers in construction.

  • MCA Education Foundation Construction Trades Scholarships – By offering these $1,000 scholarships to Montana students to pay for training or equipment related to their construction trades education, the MCA underscores its support of the construction industry and its dedication to building its workforce. Getting the word out among key groups about the benefits of careers in construction helps all of our members, and helps establish the MCA as a trusted resource for all things related to construction career development. 
  • Industry promotion – The MCA promotes the construction industry with targeted audiences, like the Montana Office of Public Instruction, industrial arts instructors, school counselors, and more. We do this to increase awareness that the MCA is available to answer questions and facilitate relationships between Montana businesses and schools. The more inquiries we receive from teachers, parents, and students, the more we can refer them to MCA member companies throughout the state.