The College of Southern Idaho feeds the workforce with skilled employees.
Two years ago, Hugo Lara of Jerome responded to a radio ad for the College of Southern Idaho’s (CSI) Construction Career Launcher program.
He had a passion for building things but was unsure about his prospects for a construction career. After several weeks of training, he gained the confidence and access needed to help him land a job with Petersen Brothers Construction and, today, he is working toward becoming a finish carpenter.
“The class was the first step I had to take for myself,” Lara says. “It gave me the reassurance that what I was doing was right.”
Providing a Solution
Like Lara, many individuals in the eight-county Magic Valley region face a common “chicken and egg” dilemma, says Janet Pretti, CSI’s director of workforce development and training. Without experience or exposure, it can be challenging to gain entry or advancement in the region’s key industries, such as agribusiness, manufacturing, warehousing, health care and food processing. These same industries and others need skilled employees, especially for emerging skills and trades.
“Employers are asking for all the technical skills, but they are also asking for 21st-century soft skills, such as communication, critical thinking and collaboration,” Pretti says. “The learning we’re delivering and engaging our learners with have theoretical concepts they need to know, but then there’s also the hands-on aspect of taking that learning and applying it.”
CSI’s workforce initiatives offer a tangible solution. Opportunities are provided to individuals for upskilling and professional growth, while companies benefit from a highly trained workforce. Students can pursue apprenticeships, professional certifications, internships, career entry from the high school level, and associate degree programs, among other options.
Traditional training is delivered through classroom and hands-on learning at the Twin Falls campus and off-campus centers in Burley, Hailey, Gooding and Jerome. Custom training is also provided on-site at local companies like Chobani, McCain Foods, Idaho Power, Clif Bar & Company and Commercial Tire, to name just a few.
A Timely Response
While learning platforms for CSI students include face-to-face, online and hybrid options, nontraditional training has accelerated in response to the challenges of COVID-19, Pretti says. These versatile instruction methods have been pivotal for regional health care providers like Stonebridge Assisted Living, Clearwater Care Center and A New Hope.
“There has been just a massive growth and need in health care at a time when we’re being told to stay home,” Pretti says. “We work with a lot of our regional players and converted to all online delivery. The student scores and rate of success with the online program didn’t miss a beat. It was so successful that some of our partners have wanted to continue this as they hire people.”
CSI training programs have also assisted working adults in the hospitality and retail trades to repackage their skills during recent industry downturns, Pretti says.
While many area employers continually invest in their people through CSI programs, they can’t afford to lose employees on the job during training, says Amy Christopherson, director of the CSI Mini-Cassia Center in Burley. New CSI Applied Technology and Apprenticeship (AAS) associate degree programs provide a custom pathway to better accommodate the schedules and budgets of working adults.
Apprentices and journeymen can pursue a degree through stackable modules that combine general education credit hours and credit for their valuable years of experience.
“We have individuals who have been committed to their craft and trade for decades, yet they might be missing a formal degree. A lot of our older students have made a commitment to return to college and earn a degree so they can advance their careers while meeting personal goals. It has been exciting to support these students,” Christopherson says.
“CSI is dedicated to strong and responsive programs in our local communities as we prepare students for employment opportunities,” she continues. “Whether students commit to transfer degrees or to technical programs or short-term trainings, our goal is to strengthen the workforce by educating and elevating our diverse student body.”
If you’d like to learn more about the Southern Idaho area, check out the latest edition of Livability: Southern Idaho