Sayer continues to urge work force, education investments

Outgoing Commerce Director Jeff Sayer continued to make his case Thursday that legislators and business leaders should invest in work force development to secure Idaho’s economic future.

Jeff Sayer Boise Chamber
Jeff Sayer speaks at Thursday’s Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

Sayer made the point Oct. 6, when he urged a legislative tax working group not to cut taxes, but to pair investments in public education and infrastructure with tactical support of professional-technical education and work force development. On Thursday, he brought a similar message to 80 business and higher education leaders participating in a Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce “Collaborative Conversation” luncheon.

“In order to advance individuals, we have to not just advance income, but enhance the earning capabilities of every Idaho citizen, and that immediately gets into skills,” Sayer said.

Sayer shared several government projections, including one that says Idaho is expected to fall 67,000 jobs short of creating the 113,000 jobs the work force needs over the next 10 years. People moving to Idaho are around retirement age, the state isn’t producing enough skilled or tech workers to meet companies’ needs and talented young graduates leave the state for their careers, Sayer said.

At one point, Sayer surveyed the audience and found that 64 percent of attendees encountered resistance in recruiting due to a negative perception of Idaho’s education system. Sayer said that makes sense, and businesses have told him they are leaving communities that don’t invest in education through bonds and levies.

Rich Raimondi, president of the private Catholic school Bishop Kelly, said business and school leaders need to engage with their community.

“A lot of what we have to change in this state is we have to change the culture,” Raimondi said. “We have to change the culture of what it means to have a good job and what it means to invest in yourself, whether it’s a one-year certification, two- year, four-year and beyond.”

Sayer also a unified front at the Statehouse, when it comes to policy and funding requests.

Thursday’s audience included Idaho Department of Labor Director Ken Edmunds, House Education Committee Chairman Reed DeMordaunt, R-Eagle, Reps. Thomas Dayley, R-Boise, and Ilana Rubel, D-Boise and Hollis Brookover, Idaho Business for Education’s vice president for development and special projects.