New Idaho Falls CTE center connects kids to careers

Lights flashed and the sound of popcorn popping filled the air.

Except it wasn’t popcorn.

Students weld in booths at Idaho Falls’ new CTE center

Welding students at the Idaho Falls School District’s new Career & Technical Education Center welded in a long row of booths along the wall.

The district cut the ribbon for the center Monday, and showcased its array of new and improved career-technical offerings with student-led tours afterward.

The stand-alone facility, housed in the old Deseret Industries building off East Street near downtown Idaho Falls, lets the district combine and grow its CTE program. Idaho Falls already offered nurse assistant, emergency medical technician, pharmacy tech, computer science and culinary arts courses at schools across the district. The new facility combines these and several other new programs under one roof this school year.

New offerings include:

  • Welding
  • Construction trades
  • Firefighting
  • Law enforcement
  • Industrial mechanics
  • Agriculture plant and soil

Enrollment isn’t restricted to students in the district. High schoolers from the Firth, Shelley and Ririe districts can also participate.

Idaho Falls trustees OK’d a new CTE facility last year as part of an effort to expand offerings to local students by connecting them to careers.

Current enrollment for all programs is about 300, up from about 110 last year, said Idaho Falls district spokeswoman Margaret Wimborne. About half of the school’s students attend classes in the morning, and half attend in the afternoon.

Students tried on ballistic vest as part of a lesson Monday.

Monday’s tours provided a closer look at the facility’s offerings. Where locals once perused discount clothing, EMT students checked a peer for signs of trauma, the kind that can stem from a car crash. Down the hall, law-enforcement students tried on ballistic vests as part of their daily lesson. One student practiced holstering an inert pistol.

Other students studied quietly in a CNA classroom, which houses a long row of patient-care manikins — lifeless, grey-haired grannies the students can treat without risk of patient injury.

Manikins line a classroom wall at the Idaho Falls School District’s new CTE high school.

The ultimate goal, leaders say, is to help students find more purpose in their education by connecting them to careers and other hands-on opportunities.

“The way I see it, my job is to help staff the fire department,” said firefighting instructor Greg Foster.

“I always knew I wanted to fight fires,” said junior Natalie Marcusson, 16, who said Foster’s classes give her a reason to attend school. “I told my mom about the program, and she immediately called the school to sign me up.”

Marcusson and half a dozen other students spent Monday morning learning about firefighting gear, which the Bonneville County Fire Department donated to the school.

Firefighting instructor, Greg Foster, teaches Idaho Falls students about firefighting gear.

In addition to daily coursework, firefighting students can participate in programs at local fire departments. Two students are now receiving on-the-job training as they advance through the course, Foster said. One is able to get paid as a member of the unit’s reserve team.

Youth apprenticeships are a big part of the program, and at least one local company has already hired a student from the school.

CTEC Senior Skylar Tolman has joined Intermech, Inc., an Idaho Falls-based firm that specializes in mechanical and industrial contracting, as the company’s newest apprentice, the district announced shortly before Monday’s ribbon cutting.

Through Idaho’s School to Registered Apprenticeship Program (STRAP), the teen and Vice President of Intermech’s Mountain West Region, Melvin Cromwell, connected. STRAP allowed Intermech to register as a local apprenticeship employer for students like Tolman. The new school allows students to gain the skills needed to land an apprenticeship — and possibly a job.

“(Tolman’s) where I used to be,” Cromwell said of his own status as an apprentice years ago.

“And he’s where I want to be,” said Tolman, pointing to Cromwell.

Visit the school’s website to learn more.

Devin Bodkin

Devin Bodkin

Devin was formerly a senior reporter and editor for Idaho Education News and now works for INL in communications.

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