Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Rural Montana recruits foreign workers for hard-to-fill jobs

Mary Jell Capillo is one of four Filipina nurses at NRMC.
(Missoulian photo by LeAnne Kavanagh)
It can be hard for employers to find qualified workers living nearby or who are willing to move to a rural area; in Montana, the shortage is so dire that some places, especially schools and hospitals, have begun hiring foreign workers, LeAnne Kavanagh reports for The Missoulian.

The Montana Office of Public Instruction reported 638 full-time openings in hard-to-fill areas in the 2016-17 school year. There were four openings in the Shelby district, and when Supt. Elliott Crump couldn't find any qualified applicants in the U.S., he ended up hiring four teachers from the Philippines. The new teachers have adapted well to their new home, and many are active in their church and their community.

The rural Northern Rockies Medical Center in Cut Bank has four Filipina nurses on staff, and may hire a fifth. CEO Cherie Taylor told Kavanagh that there is a nationwide shortage of registered nurses, and that U.S. nurses can't fill all the vacancies. "Thank goodness a lot of Baby Boomers are hanging on and not retiring, or we would be in a national crisis right now," Taylor said. Hiring foreign nurses is much cheaper than paying traveling RNs, she said.

According to a 2015 briefing compiled by CompeteAmerica, the Partnership for a New American Economy and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, there aren't enough college students getting science, technology, engineering or math degrees to meet the demand, and by this year the nation will face a shortfall of more than 223,000 advanced STEM-degree workers.

"In its 2017 study on Immigrants in Montana, the American Immigration Council reported that foreign workers are vital members of Montana’s labor force across a range of industries," Kavanagh reports. "The 11,265 immigrant workers comprised 2.2 percent of the labor force in 2015, the study said." In Montana, immigrant workers were most often employed in education, hotel and food services, mining and drilling, and health care.

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