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Students Get a Smart Start in Southern Idaho

Workforce development programs in Twin Falls and the region connect tomorrow’s talent to career opportunities in the Magic Valley.

By Teree Caruthers on December 13, 2022

Advanced Cybercore Youth Career Camp
Jeff Adkins

With the College of Southern Idaho (CSI) and Idaho State University contributing to the talent pool, the region’s higher education community is one of its great advantages. An impressive roster of workforce development programs in Twin Falls and Southern Idaho helps give the region the competitive edge to attract and retain new business.

For example, the College of Southern Idaho’s Center for Workforce Development & Training apprenticeship program connects students to a variety of work-based learning opportunities in fields that range from plumbing and HVAC to health care and machine operation.

“Our apprenticeship program is an opportunity for an individual to build a career that’s in high demand and also for an employer to build and retain a skilled workforce,” says Stefanie Hauff, training coordinator for apprenticeships at CSI.

“This is an opportunity for us to build relationships with our customers and to allow individuals to find the right fit for them – whether that be through an apprenticeship program or an internship program or a workforce training program. It’s a win-win for both the employers in our community and for individuals who are looking to start a career.”

“As we attract new businesses to the area, we want our talent to stay in this area.”

Stefanie Hauff, training coordinator for apprenticeships at CSI

Billy Salts, owner of Magic Valley Electric in Jerome, has hosted more than 100 apprentices since his company began participating in the program.

“For us, it’s a huge benefit not just for our company, but also for our employees and future employees. It’s a really great program that offers options for anyone coming out of high school who is looking for an exciting career and maybe isn’t wanting to take the college route,” Salts says. “They really work with all types of people and all ages to really develop their skill and learn the trades, allowing them to learn and grow.”

In addition to adult learners, CSI also sponsors an apprenticeship program for high school juniors and seniors to introduce students to local, in-demand careers at an earlier age.

“We’ve partnered with companies in Jerome, for example, to set up a machine operator apprenticeship program for Jerome High School students. They’ll go through a two-year program during which they’ll learn important on-the-job skills. They’ll also earn great money and have the opportunity for career placement and advancement right out of high school,” Hauff says. “That’s how we’re going to develop our future workforce.”

The College of Southern Idaho participates in workforce development initiatives.
College of Southern Idaho

A Smart Start to High-Paying Jobs

Idaho Business for Education – a group made up of business leaders across the state working to shore up Idaho’s talent supply – works through a joint effort with the Idaho Workforce Development Council as well as Idaho Department of Labor and Idaho Career and Technical Education to scale up Idaho’s Youth Apprenticeship program.

“There is a vacuum of talent in today’s economy due to a variety of factors exacerbated by the pandemic. Employers need to use every tool at their disposal to address their talent needs, and apprenticeship programs are among the greatest tools to address these needs,” says Angie LeBlanc, business development and program manager for Idaho Business for Education. “More than ever, employers need to tap into the local education system to build their workforce. The only thing we should be exporting in Idaho is potatoes – definitely not bright minds.”

LeBlanc says apprenticeship programs, which allow students to earn while they learn, are especially critical to the economic growth of the state’s rural communities.

“It’s no secret that in rural Idaho there are two major things at play – lack of opportunity and high cost of living. While the latter is a huge factor, the former could not be further from the truth,” LeBlanc says.

“Urban areas have a higher concentration of open positions, but on average, employers in rural areas have a higher percentage of openings. Through apprenticeship programs, students gain industry-recognized credentials, on-the-job experience and a national certificate upon completion – all while getting paid and with at least one pay raise by the end of the apprenticeship. This allows them to build a relevant foundation that lasts the rest of their career.”

The SkillStack program at the College of Southern Idaho
College of Southern Idaho

Spotlight: Idaho SkillStack

Introducing high school students to in-demand career opportunities and subsequently training them to fill those positions has kept a pipeline of talent flowing to Southern Idaho’s growing industries.

The College of Southern Idaho partners with public school career and technical education programs in the region to give students a head start not only to college but also to high-paying careers. The college employs Idaho SkillStack, a micro certification platform that allows students to receive college and industry credit for skills they learn through CTE courses.

Makes Financial Sense

The program also saves families money in college tuition because a SkillStack credit hour only costs $10 versus the $140 per credit hour typically charged.

“SkillStack takes the experiences students are having in their high school CTE programs and leverages that to give them a head start in their postsecondary training,” says Melissa Chantry, CTE early college coordinator for the College of Southern Idaho.

“For example, you might have a student taking some auto body classes, and SkillStack allows the instructor to track their progress as they complete competencies or skills. Then once they are finished with those, they can test to verify those skills and receive college credit for them.”

“Using SkillStack, students can skip anywhere from one class up to a full semester of their college career,” she says. “Essentially, it allows students to get to the point where they’re earning money much faster and at a less expensive rate. … A student who gets into CTE now sets themselves up for a great career opportunity in an in-demand field – one that’s going to pay well.”

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