As the spouse of a fourth generation Idaho farmer, I know that finding a meaningful occupation is essential to well-being and happiness. Our state is growing fast, providing many opportunities in various career fields. The Idaho State Board of Education is partnering with Governor Brad Little’s Workforce Development Council to create smoother career pathways through education.
It starts by encouraging Idahoans to continually strive for new knowledge and skills. “We need to generate a large body of life-long learners,” said Trent Clark, Chairman of the Workforce Development Council. “Life-long learners are looking beyond tomorrow and continually preparing themselves for the next opportunity no matter where they are in their career.”
“Employers want even their entry-level employees to have aspirations,” said Jeff McCray, Council Member and Plant Manager at McCain Foods in Burley. “Employers aren’t interested in employees who aren’t on a career pathway.” Employees with future plans tend to be more reliable and work harder and better, mastering duties and making a difference before moving up within the company or moving on to employment elsewhere.
Launching a career pathway starts by helping a student match their aptitudes and interests with a career and course study. In late July, the State Board will launch Idaho Career Information, a new program replacing the Career Information System. Idaho Career Information will be a dynamic online tool enabling students and adults to explore opportunities and start planning their career pathway. Idaho Career Information will be available on the Next Steps Idaho website, meaning students can use it in the classroom or at home with their parents. “Like the old system, Idaho Career Information will start with a personal skills assessment and interest exploration. It will then show students and adults how to take those skills and interests and apply them to related occupations,” Program Coordinator Inessa Palnikov said.
In response to the Governor’s Workforce Development Task Force recommendations to implement a single platform for career exploration and postsecondary planning the Board and the Workforce Development Council are developing ways to expand the reach and the audience of the Next Steps Idaho website. Last year, we teamed up to create a social media campaign to raise awareness about Idaho’s Adult Opportunity Scholarship intended to help working adults return to college or to a career technical program in order to earn a degree or a professional certificate. This scholarship is a tremendous resource available to both part-time and full-time adult students, who are working to improve their skills and job prospects, which is really what life-long learning is all about.
The Council and the Board are also exploring ways to grant college-level credit for various kinds of experience learned in the work place. This could include skills and experience gained while serving in the military, or through apprenticeships.
These are a few priorities where the State Board of Education and the Workforce Development Council are collaboratively focusing efforts. We will keep you posted as we work to connect current and future workers to state resources and worthwhile career pathways that benefit our citizens, our employers and our state.
Written By Debbie Critchfield, President, Idaho State Board of Education.