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One result from a poll of Montana small-business owners might be of help to state legislators pushing for greater state involvement in the teaching of trades and technology in high school, and it comes from a group rightfully suspicious of greater state involvement in anything.

As it does every year, NFIB, the nation’s and Montana’s leading small-business association, polls its members on state and federal issues affecting their right to own, operate, and grow their businesses. Unique among associations, answers to the policy questions center NFIB’s lobbying efforts in Helena and in Washington, D.C.

The 2019 Montana state member ballot asked four questions, one of which was, “Should Montana do more to provide vocational and technology training for high school students who are not college-bound, so they will be prepared to enter the workforce upon graduation?” The response to the question was:

Yes—80 percent

No—14 percent

Und.—6 percent

“The answers to three of our four ballot questions were of little surprise, but the response to the trades and technology one reflects a new reality that our economy is more in need of skilled carpenters, electricians, and computer and telecommunications professionals than we are in need of graduates with liberal arts degrees,” said Riley Johnson, NFIB’s Montana state director. “College is alluring to some students but not to all, and to ones it’s not, who are just as intelligent, training in the trades and technology might be a better channel for their potential talents.” 

 The other three questions and their responses were:

Should Montana require each state resident to carry health insurance or pay a penalty?

Yes—9 percent

No—85 percent

Und.—6 percent

In light of a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling, should Montana enact legislation promoting public sector union membership?

Yes—3 percent

No—87 percent

Und.—10 percent

Should Montana enact legislation requiring employers, including those with fewer than 15 employees, to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant workers, including time away from work?

Yes—15 percent

No—75 percent

Und.—10 percent