The state received a $650,000 grant this week aimed at smoothing the path between high school and college or career training.
Montana’s 86 percent high school graduation rate ranks 19th in the nation, but Deputy Commissioner of Higher Education John Cech said that many students are not prepared for what comes after.
"They're not thinking about the next steps in their lives beyond high school," Cech said. "They're not thinking about how they can really maximize their four years in high school to prepare them for a two-year or four-year college or apprenticeship opportunity."
The Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation grant gives the Commissioner of Higher Education’s office four years of funding to create the initiative, called iGraduate Montana.
A goal is to connect students with career fields that need workers. Montana already has a labor shortage in many fields, and it's projected to lose almost a quarter of the workforce in the next ten years, Cech said. That’s due to a growing state economy and aging population, according to the commissioner’s office.
Cech said that the initiative will use existing collaborations with organizations across the state and choose ten schools each year to receive mini-grants through the initiative. Details on specific education programs have not yet been released.