Tester visits Kicking Horse Job Corps

Polson Lake County Leader

by Brandon Hansen

RONAN — United States Senator Jon Tester saw first-hand the hard work that the staff and students at the Kicking Horse Job Corps Center do last Saturday.

Tester toured the campus near Ronan and saw how federal money is being used to give young people new skills for a new economic time.

“It’s about producing workers that can meet the needs of employers,” Tester said. “It’s about giving young people a skill set, and especially giving at risk kids that opportunity.”

During his visit, Tester talked with students who gave him presentations on their discipline study and showcased their work. His tour took him to Kicking Horse’s engine and welding workshops, the campus’ rec room, cafeteria, dorm room and fitness areas.

“There is federal money that is given to this program and we need to see how these dollars are appropriated,” Tester said in an interview afterward.

And by all indications, Tester was pleased with what he saw from the Kicking Horse Job Corp campus.

“Is this money well spent? I think it’s money well spent,” Tester said.

The Job Corps is a no-cost education and career technical training program for people between the ages of 16-24. It’s intended to improve the quality of life through vocational and academic training. Run by the U.S. Department of Labor, Kicking Horse is operated by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Nation.

However, they’ve also felt the pinch of the recent budget crisis as they’ve had to slim down the number of vocational disciplines they offer while keeping the same amount of slots open for students. Tester in an interview with media afterward said that budget solutions need bipartisanship and an understanding of priorities to keep critical programs like Kicking Horse moving along.

“It’s an investment of infrastructure and an investment in education,” Tester said, adding that the United State got out of the Great Depression by upgrading the infrastructure of the country. “If we let our infrastructure go then we set ourselves up for failure. There are a lot of real bright kids out there and they may not have any money for opportunities.”

Tester used the example of his neighbor to show the value of vocational skills taught at the Kicking Horse Campus.

“My neighbor has a welding shop and he’s looking for half a dozen welders,” he said.

Tester now knows firsthand just where he can find such skilled workers after touring the Kicking Horse Job Corps center and if the federal government continues to support them then many more will continue to graduate and rebuild the infrastructure of America.