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Students Get a Smart Start in Southern Idaho

Career programs in Twin Falls and the region connect tomorrow’s talent to the Magic Valley's growing list of job opportunities.

By Teree Caruthers on December 10, 2021

Machining and Manufacturing Technology program at the College of Southern Idaho
Doug Maughan

An early introduction to local career pathways is a key element of the Southern Idaho successful workforce development strategy. Through career and technical education (CTE) programs in the public schools, dual enrollment options that give students a head start to college and careers, and a diverse menu of degree and certificate training programs at the College of Southern Idaho (CSI), the region keeps a steady stream of skilled talent flowing to growing and in-demand industries.

When manufacturers McCain Foods, High Desert Milk and Dot Foods in Burley were looking to shore up their workforce with the next generation, they turned to the Cassia Regional Technical Center in Burley, which gives high school students in Cassia County the opportunity to learn valuable trade and technical skills alongside a traditional curriculum.

The companies partnered with the school to develop a machine operator apprenticeship program that prepares students to begin working right out of high school.

“The whole purpose for the tech center is to prepare students to become productive citizens and to give them the various skills they need to either go right into the workforce with decent-paying jobs or to continue their skill development at a two-year or four-year institution,” says Curtis Richins, the center’s director.

College of Southern Idaho workforce development program in welding
Jeff Adkins

Career Programs in Twin Falls

The Twin Falls School District offers students 15 different CTE programs — including engineering, computer science, advanced manufacturing, certified nursing, media tech and welding — in its three high schools.

“As a school district, it’s critical that we are providing our region with the employees our businesses need and that we’re also providing our students with opportunities to be innovative and to learn about the career opportunities that are available right here at home,” says Brady Dickinson, Twin Falls School District superintendent.

Dickinson says the district works closely with regional businesses to ensure the CTE curriculum meets industry standards and is aligned with industry and community needs.

“Some careers will require more training — a two-year program after high school or four years or more of college,” Dickinson says. “Each career pathway will look different. We want to help kids identify their path and then move successfully toward it.”

College of Southern Idaho workforce development program in HVAC
Doug Maughan

Faster Learning Through CSI

One way the school district helps propel students along their career path is through a dual credit program with CSI. As part of the college’s focus on high schoolers, the Early College dual credit program enables students to choose from more than 40 CSI courses and receive both high school and college credit for those classes.

“Two things this program does for kids and their families: one, it saves them money because they can take these courses at a reduced cost, and two, it shortens the time from school to career,” Dickinson says.

Get a Head Start in High School

The Early College Department at CSI in Twin Falls offers the following dual credit opportunities for high school students: agriculture, allied health, biological science, business and accounting, chemistry and physics, communication, education, English, foreign language, general education, health and wellness, information technology, physical science, pre-engineering and social science. Click here for more information.

CSI’s outreach to local schools also includes summer career camps in areas such as robotics, manufacturing, culinary arts and cybersecurity, to introduce students to local careers through a week of hands-on activities.

“The camps give middle school and high school students an opportunity to come work in our labs, have hands-on learning and to have employers from the area come and talk to them about real jobs and how they can apply what they learn in camp to actual careers,” says Janet Pretti, senior director of workforce development and training at CSI.

CSI also works to connect its own students to local career paths through a robust apprenticeship program focused on skilled trades, such as electrical, plumbing, welding, machine operation, maintenance, HVAC and health care services, as well as career fairs and hiring events.

“We’re giving students exposure at all levels of their educational career,” Pretti says. “The more we can integrate employers into that process, the better we become at building a strong pipeline of talent.”

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