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Highlands College Continuing to Offer Rapid-training Courses

August 23, 2022 Accelerate Montana Team

Montana Standard

In the last year, Highlands College has added or made plans to add a number of rapid training courses to its catalog. Among them are a class to earn a Commercial Driver’s License, become a Certified Nursing Assistant, Job Site Ready construction courses and one-to-two day trainings for roles in the television and film industry.

Although the two-year college has offered rapid training courses in some way for the past several years, it’s now offering several of them in a variety of fields due to certain industry and community needs and the availability of funding and partnerships with different organizations.

“What’s really driving it is industry needs and community needs,” said Associate of Science and Workforce Development at Highlands, Michelle Morley.

“Whether it’s medical and long-term care facilities needing CNAs or the shortage of truck drivers … there’s really a shortage right now and this is something we could do very quickly (to) get individuals trained and get them into positions that allow them to make a livable or higher wage.”

The first CDL class was offered in October 2021, and has taught three cohorts since. The course needs about seven students per course to break even, Morley said, and the cohorts have been averaging five or six.

Students who graduate the class attend eight hours a day, four days a week for six weeks. The CNA class costs $1,450 and requires students to attend eight hours a day, five days a week for two weeks.

In the CNA class, the students are able to get licensed at the conclusion of the course, and in the CDL class, the majority of the students are able to take the licensing test within the time of the course, and students who are unable to get licensed within the time of the course can use the college’s trucks for the exam.

Although demand for both courses is a little lower than Morley and Brooke Samson, director of Community Relations and Industry Partnerships at Highlands, expected, they’re in the early stages of developing online coursework for both courses to make the programs more accessible to people.

“When we ran (the CDL course) in the fall, we were still really coming out of COVID,” Morley said. “And not everybody was back-to-work, face-to-face full time, and so people were able to adjust their schedules and get in the classroom … Whereas now, it’s an entirely different story, where a lot of the expectations are, you’re back to work, you’re in the office, and you don’t have as much flexibility.”

Offering a hybrid model where students could work online from home and come in for the driving hours or lab time would enable them to do work on the weekends or at night, so students could still make an income while in school. Funding from certain partners has made these courses, along with others, possible.

For example, in April 2022, Highlands College received a $1 million grant from Butte-Silver Bow to go toward education and training for in-demand fields, such as construction, health care, civil engineering technology, cybersecurity, heavy equipment and CDL training, among others.

Morley and Samson said the program heads are also aware that cost can be prohibitive for some, so they provide information on funding for which students can apply, including Butte Career Futures, Rural Employment Opportunities and Accelerate Montana.

Because students in these workforce development classes are not eligible for  Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), these funding partners are all the more important, Samson and Morley said.

Accelerate Montana has been helpful because it has helped supplement the cost of, for example, the CDL courses when there haven’t been enough students in the class for the college to break even on the $4,650 course.


On Aug. 13-14, Accelerate Montana offered rapid training courses at the Highlands College for jobs in film production. The courses trained students as production assistants, extras and COVID Compliance Officers, a position which is required for film, video and photo shoots to operate during the pandemic.

Accelerate Montana outreach and recruitment coordinator Lynn-Wood Fields, who’s been spearheading the effort of getting Montanans jobs in the film industry at Accelerate Montana, said that about 50 people came out to the courses.

The class attracted both people who’d never worked in film, people who’d been extras in “Yellowstone,” and people who’d worked on other films.

Attendee Charlie Burt, who commuted from Bozeman and has worked on independent films in the past, said he attended the class because “it’s a course that Paramount and 101 Studios (the studio producing the “Yellowstone” series) feel comfortable hiring from.”

Sharon Joyce, a Missoula resident who’s interested in moving to Butte, said she attended the course because she wants to transition from her former career in retail management to something different. “It’s a great way to break into the Montana film scene,” she said

Fields, a Montanan herself, spent 12 years in film and is passionate about getting Montanans jobs in the film industry, particularly on sets in the state.

Accelerate Montana recently got a $6 million grant from Gov. Greg Gianforte to establish its Rapid Training Program in five industries: construction, manufacturing, healthcare, information technology and cyber security and film and media (the last one due in part to Fields’s urging).

Fields, who is CEO and founder of Media Training Center, which offered the courses in partnership with Accelerate Montana, said that at the end of the course, not only will students know some of the lingo and some of what is expected of a production assistant, but they’ll get entered into databases looking for people to fill these roles.

She said that the 1923 production filming in Butte is looking for roughly 300 extras, and they want to hire locals rather than flying people in. 

“There are productions in Montana all the time that need these positions filled,” she said. She added that the "1923'' prequel to "Yellowstone'' is the first “big” production that’s come to Butte, but there have been others here and statewide.

After the seminars concluded, Fields said that different departments of the 1923 crew asked for a list of the graduates

Accelerate Montana is also working on providing Job Site Ready courses at Highlands in the construction sector.

The course, which costs $750, is 45 hours total, 30 online and 15 onsite, is focused on preparing those interested in working in construction for what to expect on a job site.

Job Site Ready Program Manager Katherine Lechman, said that a lot of what the course does is go over job site safety. The onsite training “mirrors what students learn in the modules in online training,” Lechman said, so they can demonstrate what they learned online hands on with instructors, including doing an on-site” shed build project.”

The course is currently offered in a couple different two-year colleges in the state, including Missoula College and Gallatin College.

“With the increasing labor shortage in this industry especially, it’s more important than ever that we get these programs out and available to the public,” Lechman said. She said that because of these courses, “these folks are on the job site and able to work safely and contribute much faster.”

To read the full article on Montana Standard, click here

Faur, Kasey. "Highlands College continuing to offer rapid-training courses in a variety of fields”." Montana.Gov, 5 Aug 2022,


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