New trade school expands opportunities for rural Idahoans

Rural and remote regions of Idaho face unique challenges when it comes to higher education opportunities and workforce development. While rural businesses see a shortage of trained workers, some areas of the state sit in higher education deserts, where affordable training opportunities are hard to come by, and those that do exist aren’t compatible with workers’ schedules or career goals. 

A new trade school has its sights set on filling those gaps. 

MHATA is located in central Mountain Home.

Bringing 10 new apprenticeship programs, plus a slew of accelerated training programs and corporate workshops, the Mountain Home Adult Training Academy (MHATA) is the state’s newest trade school — and the first in rural Mountain Home. The school’s leadership is collaborating with businesses, school districts and rural locales to curate MHATA to the needs of the surrounding communities. 

“The interest is there,” MHATA founder David Porter told EdNews in an Aug. 29 interview. “It’s going to give them opportunities that just don’t exist in small communities. We’re excited to watch it play out and see what we can offer.” 

MHATA offers low-cost training programs curated for adults and working learners

This isn’t Porter’s first experience with job training in rural Idaho. MHATA’s sister school, the Shelley Adult Training Academy (SATA), has provided job training for individuals in Bingham County and the surrounding region since 2010. 

MHATA mimics the mission of SATA, but the programs are curated to the local community, Porter said. In East Idaho, many students are pursuing certificates in radiological control and getting jobs with the Idaho National Laboratory. In Mountain Home, Porter expects the program demands to look a little different. 

Right now, MHATA offers nine apprenticeship programs, created in coalition with local business demands:

  • Carpentry
  • Electrician
  • HVAC Technician
  • Ironworker
  • Laborer
  • Millwright
  • Pipefitter
  • Plumbing
  • Welding

A 10th program for machinists is on its way. 

The programs run from two to four years. But, according to Porter, every program can be curated to the needs of the apprentice. An advanced worker could test out of the basic skills in their apprenticeship program, and expedite the more advanced training, cutting down their program duration by a few months, or even years. 

The school also offers technical training “helper” programs for welding, mechanical systems and radiological control, as well as safety courses, and a leadership academy that offers professional development and office training for public speaking, workplace harassment prevention, business ethics, Microsoft Office Suite, time management and more. 

Most MHATA programs run in the evenings to cater to adult learners, who are often working a 9-5 schedule and have families to care for, said Porter. Courses can cost anywhere from $500 to $10,000, depending on the length of the program and level of instruction time. 

MHATA’s advisory board, made up of local business owners and industry professionals, will meet often to reevaluate community demands. 

Prospective students must have a diploma or GED, and go through an interview process to be admitted. But leadership often works with students who don’t meet the requirements, or aren’t sure about their career paths.  

“Some students are denied because they really don’t know what they want to do,” said Porter. “If they’re rejected, we try to place them in a program that’s a better fit, or get them to a place where they can thrive.”

For some programs, students need to pass a math exam with an 80% or higher to be admitted. If a student doesn’t pass, MHATA offers a low-cost to free math course to beef up their skills before they try again. 

Rural patrons call MHATA a game changer

Accessibility in education is an MHATA standard, said Porter, who has spent the past months reaching out to rural communities, including groups that are underrepresented in college classrooms and the certified workforce. 

MHATA aims to remove barriers for students by catering to their schedules, skill levels and financial situations. 

“Everyone is welcome,” Porter said. 

At an Aug. 29 meeting, Porter highlighted accessibility as he shared information about MHATA with a small group of patrons, most of whom were from the Duck Valley Reservation. 

Porter has committed to working with Duck Valley over the past few years, collaborating with the Tribal Equal Rights Organization to organize classes on the reservation. 

One attendee said her goal is to get certified as an instructor — she wants to share her decades of expertise with other tribal members, and build up their local workforce. But finding an accessible, short-term program has been a challenge in Duck Valley, which spans the remote border region of Nevada and Idaho. 

“I have all the expertise, and I want to be able to teach, but I don’t want to go back to school for four years,” she said. “I can’t sit that long.” 

But through MHATA, she’ll be able to pursue that certification at a lower cost, and shorter time commitment, even with the hour-plus commute from the reservation to Mountain Home. 

“This is a game changer.” 

Sadie Dittenber

Sadie Dittenber

Reporter Sadie Dittenber focuses on K-12 policy and politics. She is a College of Idaho graduate, born and raised in the Treasure Valley. You can follow Sadie on Twitter @sadiedittenber and send her news tips at [email protected].

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