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Calling it a “very exciting day,” the Montana Board of Regents on Wednesday announced a new $25 million grant to help the state’s two-year colleges train today’s students for tomorrow’s jobs.

The U.S. Department of Labor awarded the grant to 13 community colleges and universities in the state to develop and expand innovative training programs.

The grant was announced in Butte during the regents’ monthly meeting.

“I cannot express what I’m feeling right now,” said John Cech, commissioner of two-year colleges for the Montana University System. “This grant will transform two-year education in Montana and its ability to provide workforce development responsiveness in energy development and advanced manufacturing.”

The grant, which includes more than $1.3 million for Missoula College and $931,568 for Bitterroot College, will go to promote workforce development in emerging fields such as advanced manufacturing, energy, transportation and health care.

Regents also mentioned science, technology, engineering and math.

Great Falls College tops the list, standing to receive $8.5 million, while Flathead Valley Community College will receive $3.4 million.

“Our two-year colleges play a crucial role in equipping our students with the skills and experiences to meet the demands of today’s economy,” Gov. Steve Bullock said after regents made public news of the grant. “It will give our colleges the resources they need to ensure they are training their students for the jobs that are in demand.”

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Clayton Christian, commissioner of higher education, said Montana’s workers must be trained with the skills needed to compete for 21st century jobs. The state had applied for and lost the grant in the past.

Christian said the state’s 10 two-year colleges and tribal partners will likely educate 10,000 people over the next four years in areas surrounding energy and advanced manufacturing.

Bullock has named education as the backbone of a stronger state economy.

“Montana’s two-year colleges are at the heart of providing responsive workforce development opportunities,” Christian said.

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Reporter Martin Kidston can be reached at 523-5260, or at martin.kidston@missoulian.com.

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