Career Connections in Montana

Transforming Potential from the Classroom to the Job Site

The United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America (UBC) Career Connections Program provides high school students, including students across our six-state region, with an opportunity to learn first-hand the skills and values required to build a successful career as a union carpenter after graduation.

In Montana three high schools in Billings Public Schools recently committed to using the program in their shop classes. Attaining this commitment has been the work of Northwest Carpenters Union’s Montana team, including Representative Riley McCauley, LU 82, who lives in Billings. McCauley demonstrated Career Connections to school administrators and three shop teachers in an effort to bring the program to his community.

“Billings Public School Superintendent Greg Upham decided to migrate high school woodworking shop classes to a construction trades curriculum where careers are in demand,” said Billings West High School shop teacher Derrick MacAskill. With a background as a construction electrician, MacAskill was impressed with the UBC’s Career Connections program, literature, and online learning management system.

The UBC program is made available to schools and districts for a modest investment and McCauley, who became experienced with the Career Connections curriculum at the UBC International Training Center assured the district that he would be able to train their shop teachers to use the program effectively. “[McCauley] brought it all together for us and laid out the program,” MacAskill said. “The textbooks with step-by-step instructions, lesson plans, hands-on learning, and the UBC’s online learning management system makes the program user-friendly for students and teachers.”

To make these connections, Northwest Carpenters Union representatives and training center staff members present Career Connections in their area school districts, spending countless hours attending school board meetings, advisory committees, conferences, and job fairs at high schools, technical schools, and colleges across the Council. They meet with principals, school superintendents, curriculum developers, instructors, and parent/teacher organizations. In addition, some Regional Council staff members, as well as rank-and-file members, sit on these boards and committees ensuring strong collaboration and partnership.

“School administrators want to see change,” said McCauley. “They know that not all their students are college-bound. Career Connections is an opportunity they can offer their students that provides a clear pathway to a career in the trades.”

Career Connections may be new to Billings, Montana schools, but there are many schools and districts throughout the northwest region that have integrated Career Connections into their curriculum. In Portland, Oregon one such school is Portland Public Schools’ Benson Polytechnic High School where Career Connections was adopted in 2017.

Benson High School graduate, Tarquin Perce was selected to participate in the Career Connections program in the summer of 2019. “I’ve always liked hands-on work and putting stuff together,” said Perce. Now Perce is a member of Local Union 1503 and a fourth-period carpenter apprentice. He says Career Connections, coupled with an internship at Andersen Construction, helped him get his foot in the door to becoming a union carpenter.

“After I graduated, I called [human resources] at Andersen Construction where I’d done my internship the summer before, got hired right away, and became a first-period apprentice,” recalled Perce. “I am really happy with my career choice. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.” 

“Contractor support through hiring is key to the success of students who have completed Career Connections,” said Sam Moles, Apprentice Coordinator at Pacific Northwest Carpenters Institute (PNCI) and one of Perce’s instructors. Megan Kilmer, Career Connections Outreach Coordinator at PNCI added, “We love to see young people working hard and learning out on the job sites with contractors who are committed to bringing up this next generation of carpenters.”

Local 1503 fourth-period apprentice Tarquin Perce outside the Andersen Construction jobsite he currently works on in Portland, OR
Andersen Construction jobsite in Portland, OR

To learn more about Career Connections, click here.


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The Northwest Carpenters’ Union values education, and offers both our members and their families access to the high quality college education that working members of the Northwest’s middle class deserve. Apply Now

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