Building an Efficient and Effective Model
It took living and working in 7 countries (8, if we count New York City) to understand Sandpoint, Idaho, was home. My wife and I spent the better part of 20 years living and working in lands from Uzbekistan to Vietnam. Our son was born in Bangkok, Thailand, and daughter in Nairobi, Kenya. For a while, it looked like our home would be the place we lived in any particular moment.
That career in global public health was exhilarating. Sure, it was challenging at times. It was incredibly rewarding to play a part in the steady gains in health outcomes throughout the countries I worked. But after years of a life on the move, we set out on what would become a nearly decade long search for the perfect place to live. And we found it in North Idaho, with its promises of vibrant community and a stunningly beautiful outdoor playground we were longing for in a ‘re-entry’ to the U.S. We jumped.
"As the newest member of the PTECH team, I’m not looking back. In the role of Director of Strategy and Operations – a new one for the organization - my focus is grounded in building an efficient & effective model to support (and match) PTECH’s vision and aspirations."
The timing comes at an incredibly exciting time for the economy, and Idaho PTECH’s role of connecting the dots between students and employers. During my first week on the job, I attended a presentation by the the Idaho Department of Labor, who is projecting a ‘workforce gap’ of 91,400 workers by 2022 – an estimate that continues to be revised up. This is matched by our experience with many industry supporters and partners who, in projecting their own workforce needs, are concerned about recruiting skilled and qualified local candidates to fill those well-paying jobs.
Internally, the program has worked hard to learn from the first full years of operations. Alan Millar, Executive Director of PTECH, nicely sums up PTECH’s goal as “…a pathway for students that will guide them through the educational process towards a productive career and a successful life.” To achieve that goal, the PTECH model and approach continues to evolve based on the insights gathered from a full year of supporting students, educators, and employers. Perhaps unique to PTECH, our starting point is really our end objective- the needs of Idaho’s employers for talented, skilled employees. We then work back from that end point to design programs that will equip successful students with the technical skills, qualifications, and employability skills employers are looking for to fill those jobs. It’s a unique space to fill, and it’s exciting to join a nimble team innovating on the go in the face of a rapidly evolving Idaho economy.
I have been surprised, during these first weeks on the job, at the similarity of the challenges we face in public health, and those in workforce development. The questions to answer are strikingly similar: How can we provide rural communities with access to similar opportunities that exist in urban settings? How to build a model that works, to scale? How do we balance the need to provide an exceptional experience to an individual (student), while meeting the growing needs of employers requiring a reach of tens of thousands? How do we measure our success? (Both health and education/job placement programs have very long pipelines – improved behaviors today may not yield dividends for years to come). And importantly, what are the sustainable strategies to fuel this important work long into the future?
My focus over the coming months will be to work with the PTECH team, and the great number of partners across the state, to answer those very questions. My priorities include working with teams to operationalize a strategic plan, landing metrics that mark our way toward an agreed goal, and exploring opportunities for sustainable delivery of effective programs. We need to match the clarity of the value we deliver to our students, to employers, and to educators with a business model that can deliver that value in a variety of contexts.
I’m thrilled to be tackling this role in a state I’ve only recently moved to. While I wasn’t born and bred in Idaho, it is motivation enough to work in a place that my kids – and their peers across the state – call home.