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RDO helps kids contribute to revitalization

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RONAN — Last week, RDO Equipment Co. held an interactive presentation at the Ronan fairgrounds and football field to teach kids from Ronan High School more about the industry and contribute to a local revitalization project. 

Partnering with the Montana Chamber of Commerce, RDO selected Ronan for the program and visited the high school with the question, “how do we help Montana kids understand the career opportunities available in the construction and equipment industry?”

A two-day event, the first went the entire school day and involved the complete high school. “It went really well,” Heather Gray of RHS commented. “We had over 400 kids participate.” 

Beginning with an assembly, RDO Vice President Adam Gilbertson walked students through some of the different career opportunities in both the equipment world and within construction companies. 

“One of the things we focused on a lot is the changing nature of the work,” Gilbertson said. A lot of new technology has been rapidly entering the market, he explained, and it means a lot of change for the industry. “Tele-remote operation, intelligent paving efforts, 3D modeling … It’s not only the traditional roles anymore. We’re really excited about what this technology means.” 

After the assembly, students were led out to the fairgrounds and football field to try out some of that new technology for themselves. 

Along with remote control skids students could operate from inside a van, and flying drones over the football field, students were allowed to operate excavators with helpful supervision. They were tasked with working on the foundation for the bike hostile project by the Ronan Revitalization Committee. 

“As part of this process, we asked ‘is there anything we can do that’s not just digging a hole?’” Gilbertson laughed. “One of the community members donated materials, so the students are actually filling in the base that they’ll then build the hostile on top of. So, we’re actually going to help put a little of the work in place here.” 

“I think, in that part, the kids were like ‘Hey, I’m giving back. I’m actually adding to my community,’” Gray commented. “So that was kind of fun. They can say they helped with that when it’s finished.”

Overall, the event was about informing kids about different possibilities for their futures. 

“We’ve kind of lost our way in how we help young people find careers that aren’t degree certified,” Gilbertson commented. “There are these great jobs here in the state that one could send you to school, could set you up well to run your own business, or find a great career working for one of these Montana companies. There’s opportunity that’s not a plan B. It can be a plan A.”

“Kids got to see and hear true work-based learning and how effective and beneficial that can be. It doesn’t always have to be straight into school, you’re learning as you go,” Gray stated. Seeing all the different positions that go into making a business work at all levels was beneficial as well, she added. “You don’t have to be the one cranking the wrenches, you can be in the front office, or you can be on the sales team… I think it opened some eyes.”

By the end of the event, six students ended up signing on for internships with RDO in Kalispell.

“The industry has never moved faster with technology, and it’ll never be slower than it is today. That’s the world we’re in right now, and we need to be ready for where we go from here,” Gilbertson said. “One of the things I shared with the kids this morning is I hope you come out of school with an understanding of how to learn, more so than what to learn… If you’re prepared to learn and to troubleshoot that you’re going to be successful in whatever career you set yourself up for.” 

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