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Southern Idaho Continues to Offer Innovative Programs Supporting Workforce Development

CSI develops business-responsive dual credit, degree programs

By Dorian Martin on September 5, 2018

Twin Falls, ID
Twin Falls / Jeff Adkins

The College of Southern Idaho is at the forefront of workforce development with established efforts such as the college’s dual credit program and more recent innovations such as the proposed bachelor’s degree in advanced food technology.

Giving High School Students an Early Start

CSI has been a state leader in dual credit for 15 years. These courses allow students to begin earning college credit while still in high school. During the 2017-18 school year, CSI served more than 6,300 students through this program. In 2018-19, CSI officials estmate that 52 percent of the school’s student population is enrolled in this program.

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CSI’s dual credit program is unlike many others in that students often attend college-level classes tuaght by CSI professors online or on campus versus following curricula taught in high school classrooms, says CSI Associate Dean of Early Colelge Jonathan Lord.

In addition, CSI creates academies as part of the dual credit program. These multiyear academies, which are offered both on- and off-campus, are selective and create cohorts based on a specific focus, such as STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). A three-year teacher education academy is on the drawing board; this academy is designed for high school students who are interested in becoming K-12 teachers.

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CSI also has dual credit offerings for high school students who want to pursue a career and technical education (CTE) pathway.

Students can do coursework early in the morning or late in the afternoon so they can attend classes on campus around their high school schedules, Lord says. The dual credit program is an integral part of the regional workforce development effort.

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“Approximately 35 percent of students enrolled in dual credit courses are in a CTE course to earn a work certification, he adds.

“That’s a whole lot of students that we’re moving early into a potential career pathway,†Lord says. “We’re also building initial relationships with high school students that give them the confidence to come back 5 to 10 years into their career to be trained on more specific requirements.â€

More Innovations on the Way

CSI is developing an innovative bachelor’s degree in advanced food technology to meet demand from the Magic Valley’s food manufacturers. This degree program, which received the Idaho State Board of Education’s approval but still is under review by the college’s regional accreditation body, is anticipated to launch in fall 2019. If approved, this would be the first bachelor’s degree program offered by a community college in Idaho.

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The bachelor’s degree is in alignment with an associate degree program in food processing created five years ago.

“We’ve recognized that while we’re educating a lot of the production line engineering staff, there’s a value-add that we could bring to these employers through training future managers,†says CSI Executive Vice President Todd Schwartz.

The planned bachelor’s degree would build on the associate degree program through offering general education, business, supply chain management, marketing and supervision courses.

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“These courses will really develop an individual in that sector so they can take on more management and supervisory responsibilities,†Schwartz says.

Industry leaders applaud CSI’s continual efforts in developing the region’s workforce. In a letter of support for the proposed bachelor’s degree, McCain Foods Plant Manager Jeff McCray says, “We see the opportunity for students to achieve applied skills and have the option of pursuing more advanced education as a win for industry, the students and the region.â€

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