From providing an able, trained workforce to finding solutions for industry to building a visionary center for collaborative research in science and engineering, Idaho State University helps Pocatello, and Idaho, prosper.
The university, founded in 1901, draws 14,500 students from nearly 60 countries to pursue education in 285 programs. Among ISU’s areas of expertise are humanities, business, the arts, nuclear research, energy, engineering, and biological sciences and health care. The array of careers students can prepare for is staggering – the College of Technology alone offers its 2,000 students 40 programs ranging from nuclear power plant operation and fire services administration to cosmetology and culinary arts.
“The biggest piece of economic development is people development, training people to work in high-tech jobs and bringing the high-tech opportunities to them,” says Dr. Howard Grimes, ISU vice president for research and economic development. “In the university we can do the research, create the jobs and train the workforce. Our vision is to create a premier model for an entrepreneurial university that drives economic development via private-public partnerships.”
Those partnerships underlie the university’s new RISE Complex (Research and Innovation in Science and Industry), a sprawling 215,000-square-foot facility that can accommodate the building of large instruments while also conducting applied research into nano-material particles. RISE brings together multidisciplinary partners from the public, private and academic sectors to create innovative applications for “real world” business and industry, from health care to nuclear energy.
“We’ve already patented one of our key technologies that’s of great interest to a regional company in Pocatello, and we’re looking at research collaboration with a Fortune 500 energy company for roughly $1 million a year to start with,” Grimes says.
RISE’s work, he predicts, will generate high-tech, good-paying jobs, and benefit new and expanding companies, both global and local, that in turn will attract a diversified, highly trained workforce.
“ISU, and the state of Idaho, are uniquely poised for dramatic growth in economic development,” says Grimes, who was recruited to ISU from Washington State and now finds Pocatello “hands down” the best place he has lived. “There are pockets of expertise here that, when put together, will be exponential in their impact.”
ISU’s commitment to the economic health of Southeastern Idaho is also reflected in the range of its workforce training programs, which include coursework, certificate programs, internships and customized training. The agribusiness, J.R. Simplot Company, one of the state’s largest employers, has had an ongoing relationship with ISU that includes student placements and internships with the company, onsite consultation, and an employee education assistance program.
“They provide the critical training our employees need to get into higher-tech positions,” says Camille Andersen, Simplot director of organizational development. “ISU has also been very responsive to us as we look at boosting automation, engineering, instrumentation and controls statewide.” ISU also has been “very supportive,” she says, in helping employees of the company’s Aberdeen plant, which is closing in 2014.
“They have been onsite to speak to our employees about the services they offer, hosted an institutional tour of the school and been very active in helping people plan,” says Jody Geritz, training specialist at Simplot’s Aberdeen facility. “They are a good partner for us.”