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Nampa Schools Keep Talent Pipeline Flowing

Career programs in Nampa prepare students to work in the region’s growing industries.

By Teree Caruthers on February 1, 2023

Idaho Center for Advanced Technology
Nampa School District

A steady stream of highly skilled workers keeps the economy growing strong in Nampa, and Nampa schools play a major role in maintaining that pipeline of talent, offering innovative courses, programs and services that prepare students for college and the workforce.

At the heart of the Nampa School District’s career readiness strategy is the Idaho Center for Advanced Technology (ICAT), a school-within-a-school that offers career and technical education (CTE) courses in 28 different in-demand career pathways, including health care, manufacturing and IT.

ICAT programs are physically housed within the school district’s three high schools, and students can go back and forth between the campuses to take the courses they want. Many of the courses are dual credit, meaning students receive college credit as well as credit toward a high school diploma.

“We also offer industry certifications to our high school students,” says Cindy Arnzen, ICAT director. “For example, our CNA (certified nursing assistant) kids will walk away leaving high school with a CNA license.”

“We provide a lot of hands-on experiences that they will need when they go out into the workforce.”

Cindy Arnzen, ICAT director

Arnzen says these certifications as well as the hands-on training received in CTE classes allow students to enter the local workforce more quickly.

“Our students also have to pass a workplace readiness assessment test that focuses on those soft skills, such as communication, time management and professionalism,” she says.

Arnzen says ICAT’s industry partners play a major role in preparing students for the workforce, hosting career fairs, giving talks to classes, providing after-school jobs and internships, and advising teachers on the skills students need.

Idaho Center for Advanced Technology
Clint Whitehead

Nampa Schools Enjoy Powerful Partnerships

“Each of our pathways has a technical advisory committee board, and these industry partners work with the high school teachers to make sure we are teaching what industry needs students to learn,” she says. “We also have some of our industry partners come in and be guest speakers and talk to our students about what type of career opportunities are out there.”

One such industry partner is Clint Whitehead, president of Western Trailers, manufacturer of agricultural, platform, refuse and forest trailers. Whitehead hosts student welding competitions at the high schools and talks to students about career opportunities at companies like his.

Whitehead says he became involved with the program after touring some of the ICAT classrooms and being impressed by the hands-on training students receive.

“I was just blown away. I mean they literally are training people for the workforce, and they make it convenient for the students to attend these classes and still be in school with their other friends,” he says. “They have an EMT program with an actual ambulance in the classroom, so when students graduate, they’re ready to drive an ambulance. The nursing program has hospital beds and all the equipment that a hospital room has; the dental class is set up like a dentist’s office with dental chairs and dental tools. These classrooms mimic the trades the students are training for. They have a culinary class that makes so much money that the accounting class does the books for it.”

Whitehead says his company hires students to work part time during the summer, and upon graduation, often hires them full time.

“This summer, we had seven to 10 students working at least 20 hours a week in our welding program. Every summer, we have from five to 15 student workers, and we usually get two or three full-time employees out of each group,” he says.

“We’d rather hire someone that has some experience and then train them to be a long-term employee for us. They’re going to make more money in the long run if they just come in and get to work and start putting money in retirement and work their way up through the company.”

Kid Business Fair in Nampa, Idaho
Kid Business Fair

An Early Start to Entrepreneurship

Nampa is home to born entrepreneurs, and a new Kid Business Fair helps highlight the city’s smallest businesspeople. Founded by Paul Dille and his sons, 8-year-old Brooks and 6-year-old Nixon, the Kid Business Fair teaches children about entrepreneurism and gives them a platform to put that knowledge to practice by selling their wares, which range from cotton candy to squishy toys to photography.

“One of my sons sold concrete pots, which was actually a pretty good business. We bought some forms online, and we bought concrete and mixed it and made the pots. Then we visited a horticulturist, and my son learned all about succulents. We bought succulents and potted them, and he sold the potted plants at the fair,” says Dille, who adds that the idea came from a friend’s daughter’s T-shirt that read “I am an entrepreneur.”

“She had participated in one of these fairs in Utah, and she just lit up when I was asking her about it. We didn’t have anything like that in Idaho, and seeing how excited she was, I wanted the same experience for my kids. So I said if there isn’t one, we’ll just start one ourselves,” he says.

Dille says he’s always had an entrepreneurial spirit and wanted to share that with his sons and other children.

“Today, the norm has become you graduate from high school, you go to college, you get a job. But there are multiple ways that people can earn a living and it’s good to expose kids to those different options,” Dille says. “There are kids who participated in this fair who had a really good experience, and there are some who said, ‘Selling stuff isn’t for me.’ We just want them to see there are plenty of options.”

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