Characterized by strong demographics and exponential growth, Twin Falls is an attractive spot on the map for businesses large and small looking to expand or relocate. The market is known to attract top retail brands and innovative industry giants including Clif Bar, Glanbia Nutritionals, Amalgamated Sugar and Chobani, who contribute to increased growth opportunities throughout the Magic Valley.
“The low cost of living, ease of doing business and plentiful access to outdoor recreational activities has sparked major growth and corporate investment in Twin Falls over the past decade,” said Patrick Wood, managing general partner at Wood Investment Cos.
With major growth and investment comes an elevated need for skilled labor. The City of Twin Falls has access to a workforce of more than 100,000 and, through public-private partnerships, apprenticeships and work-based learning programs, continues to prioritize the development of that workforce.
Work-Based Learning Elevates High School Employment Opportunities
Rather than waiting to recruit recent graduates in the exploratory phase of their careers, many Twin Falls businesses turn to nearby school districts for help.
“Our programs address needs in high-demand occupations throughout the Magic Valley,” explains Annie Peterson, the college and career adviser and work-based learning coordinator at Magic Valley High School. “It’s a beneficial way for employers to get skilled laborers and workers, and it’s a win-win for the student, the school and the local business economy.”
Students enrolled in the Magic Valley High School Career and Technical Education Program commit to a three-year plan. As sophomores, students complete a work ethics and employment class, making them eligible for an internship during their junior year.
“The goal is for students to advance to a capstone class and paid internship during their senior year,” said Annie. “In the morning those students complete their core classes and have the afternoon to go to their job site.”
Popular work placements in the program include culinary arts, welding, construction and other trades.
“We have a student now who is going to be an intern at Great Harvest and attend the culinary arts and hospitality program at the College of Southern Idaho,” said Annie. “She’ll fill a labor gap left by there.”
From the Classroom to a Career Craftsman
Development and growth of an economy are stifled if there aren’t skilled craftsmen available to do the necessary work.
“When there is a limited number of contractors available to the city for projects like road or sidewalk construction, costs get higher,” said Twin Falls Economic Development Director Nate Murray. “That can greatly impact overall price and quality.”
In addition to progressive work-based learning, the Twin Falls School District offers CTE-focused construction classes to help fill restrictive labor shortages in the area. While developing skills in foundation setting, framing, exterior siding applications and interior finish, the second-year course offered by the school district also provides hands-on training in specialized construction trades such as plumbing, electrical and HVAC.
“It’s a good opportunity for [students] to explore and see if it’s something they’re interested in,” said teacher Cameron Hoge. “There’s always a need for somebody that’s skilled in a trade.”
For more information on apprenticeships and work-based learning, visit https://cte.idaho.gov.
Addressing Workforce Needs in Education: The Teacher Becomes the Student
The Magic Valley, much like many other regions across the U.S., struggles not only with a shortage in construction labor, but in qualified teachers as well.
“I spent seven years as the certification director for the State of Idaho overseeing teachers,” said Christina Linder, the alternate authorization program director at CSI. “At that time it became apparent to me that our rural districts had a terrible time finding qualified teachers who would stay in their small districts.”
The gap created by traditional teacher preparation models provided an opportunity for the State of Idaho to try something new.
“It’s a skills, training and performance assessment program,” said Christina. “It’s measured by how well you perform the things a teacher needs to know how to do on the job.”
The Non-Traditional Educator Preparation Program at CSI is targeted to individuals who wish to become fully certified teachers. Online resources and virtual sessions make the certification easily accessible to audiences across the state.
“We’re not asking them to do anything except what is best for the kids, and if they’re able to perform those tasks at the end of the semester, they’ve completed that module and move on to the next one,” Christina said.
Although every effort is made to provide individualized, attentive training and mentorship during the five-semester program, Christina emphasizes that candidates are not in a hand-holding environment.
“We’re going to watch you closely and see if you have the heart of a teacher and the will to show up for the kids,” she said. “We exit candidates quickly if they don’t meet those standards.”
The potential of the program earned CSI a $1.1 million grant from the Idaho Workforce Development Council that will allow continued improvements to be made to the virtual environment as the program continues to grow. Since its launch in the Fall of 2018, enrollments have increased by more than 500%.
“We’re so committed to serving districts who have been overlooked and underserved for some time,” Christina said. “This is a big step for Idaho education and teacher shortages.”
For more information on the Non-Traditional Educator Preparation Program, visit https://www.csi.edu/education-department/non-traditional-educator-preparation-program/.
As skilled workers age out of their professions and businesses continue to plant roots in the Magic Valley, Twin Falls remains focused on investing time, money and resources into ensuring the current and upcoming workforce remains strong. Visit https://twinfallsidaho.org to learn more.