Best Practices
May 6, 2009

Kalispell Pioneers Career Clusters in Montana

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In 2007, Kalispell public schools had the opportunity to start fresh when it opened its second public school, Glacier High School. When it came time to construct the curriculum, the superintendent of Kalispell schools recognized that the school had a responsibility not only to produce educated young citizens, but also to produce workers ready to succeed as professionals. As a result, the Kalispell Business Education Initiative, a partnership founded in 2006 that includes the public school system, the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce, and Flathead Valley Community College, joined the discussion to advise the new school on how to best educate and prepare its students.

The Initiative coalition examined the 16 nationally-recognized "career clusters" model, deciding on six that could be supported in northwest Montana's economy. As is the case with many other regions across the nation, students choose a cluster and focus their studies while still learning basic skills with broad application. About 60 local business leaders currently make up the six Career Field Advisory Teams, which provide ongoing direction for Kalispell's six career clusters in the schools.

"More than ever, businesses are realizing the importance of being close to the education system," says Joe Unterreiner, President, Kalispell Chamber of Commerce. We see our role as helping the schools to offer students the 3 R’s of education: rigor, relevance and relationships. We intend to move forward more aggressively to increase the level of engagement between education and industry to advance our regional workforce. A focus on career and technical education presents the employer community with an actionable agenda for solving workforce challenges and integrating rigorous academics with project-based experiences."