Who Will Solve Montana’s Worker Shortages?

As of 2016, the unemployment rate in Montana was around 4%. In 2019, that figure is now closer to 2% and is expected to drop as low as 1% as jobs in every sector are opening up by the horde. Having one of the nation’s leading unemployment rates is a great perk for prospective new residents and employees within the state, but it’s horrible news for employers who are struggling to fill the gaps.

An estimated 130,000 workers are expected to retire in the state within the next 10 years, and during that time we’ll only see the appearance of roughly 123,000 new workers between the ages of 16-24. Then, we have to account for the fact that Montana’s economy is expected to grow by an estimated 6,500 new jobs per year. So, for a quick mathematical recap:

130,000 retiring baby boomers – 123,000 millennial replacements = 7,000 needed employees


6,500 new jobs/year x 10 years (65,000 new jobs)

= approximately 72,000 open slots that will be left unfilled in Montana by 2029.

So, who is going to come up with a solution for this seemingly unavoidable economic problem? Surely such a complicated issue will require the action of a high-ranking politician or a board of regulators, no?

Well, not quite. In reality, it’ll be the workers themselves who will need to step up and make the difference. Ultimately, that just means the educational and employment recruiting sectors will need to do a better job at convincing students to take up one of the following career paths:

1. Nurses

Many hospitals and clinics are turning to help from foreign travel nurses because they can’t find any qualified locals to fill the open job positions. The state not only needs to fill entry-level registered nursing spots but also higher-paying positions such as family nurse practitioner (FNP), which pays an average annual salary of around $100,000. If that sounds interesting, be sure to learn more about family nurse practitioner roles and responsibilities to see if it’s a good career fit for you.

2. Teachers

Many of the schools in the state are also resorting to hiring foreign teachers due to the shortage of qualified educators. As of 2017, there were more than 600 open teaching positions classified as “hard to fill” by the Montana Office of Public Instruction. While becoming a teacher won’t give you the best salary, it’s a relatively easy-going job and it’s perfect for anyone who enjoys working with youth.

3. Police Officers

During the past year, there have been several news stories that have discussed the police shortages that are affecting many of Montana’s jurisdictions. Officers in Missoula have even stated that the local police department is “perpetually and grievously” understaffed. Similar problems have been seen in Grand Falls and Bozeman this year. You can be part of the solution and take advantage of the long hours to earn overtime and boost your salary as a law enforcement officer to above $100,000.

4. Construction Workers

The construction industry in Montana is also suffering from a lack of qualified workers as new contracts and projects are launched daily without the necessary workforce. Most of these jobs don’t offer the best salaries, but you can get them with minimal vocational training and they’ll hire you on the spot. Alternatively, you can get a degree in construction site management and wind up earning an annual salary in the range of $60,000-$100,000+.

5. Skilled Workers

It may seem somewhat vague to say that the entire state is facing a shortage of skilled workers but that is unfortunately the case. For starters, we need more electricians and plumbers.

Will Automation Play a Role in Solving the World’s Labor Shortage?

Montana isn’t the only state in the country that’s facing a labor shortage. In fact, the problem is affecting numerous industries on a global scale as economies continue to scale up without sufficient workforces to accommodate growing demands.

While it’s still important for schools and recruiters to bring professionals into the aforementioned professions, eventually we’re going to need some innovation in the realm of business automation to end the shortage once and for all.

With that said, if you’re trying to decide on an occupation, go for something that can’t be easily automated. For example, it will probably be a while before we see robotic nurses working in hospitals, so becoming a nurse practitioner should be a relatively safe career path for at least a couple more decades.