A Story: Accelerated Pathways to Skills
Earlier this month, Jeff Sayer, founding partner of Rectify Horizons and former Director of Idaho Commerce, submitted a widely published op-ed about the need for accelerated talent pipelines in Idaho. We took an interest in his article, which highlights the importance of alternatives to traditional education pathways in order to create a skilled workforce ready to hit the ground running in today's job market. PTECH has begun working with industry partners in Idaho on creating accelerated training opportunities, like this one with Quest Aircraft. We asked Jeff to write a follow-up article to delve deeper into why these opportunities are good for Idaho's youth as well as our economy. Jeff shares his additional thoughts and a personal story on our blog today.
I wrote a recent editorial suggesting we need to rethink how we shape our education pathways. Thousands of high paying jobs remain unfilled in Idaho simply because employers cannot find people with the right skills and many of those skills do not require four or even two-year college degrees. We cannot abandon traditional education, but my recommendation is we need to embrace accelerated pathways that help Idahoans gain those skills faster than traditional education pathways. Many Idahoans, including business leaders, have applauded the idea and others are understandably skeptical.
Allow me to illustrate with a recent conversation I had with an impressive young man. He lives in Boise and for several reasons after he graduated from high school did not attend college. He is smart, capable and his family encourages education and is able to help him financially. All are reasons, when missing, we use to explain why someone cannot attend college.
Instead, after high school this young man turned to food service jobs to survive. Barely making rent he often struggled to have money for groceries. He didn't own a car and carefully kept his expenses low so he could be responsible with what he had. But the bottom line was he was financially stuck, had no career path, and lacked the skills necessary to gain a well-paying job.
His life changed when he responded to adult mentors who encouraged him to enroll in a fast-track software coding program. With effort and help from his family he was soon in a 90-day code school. He worked hard and secured an internship following the training. From there he dove into the material. He watched coding videos at night, worked hard for his employer and turned his internship into a full time position.
He now finds himself working for a good company, with great benefits and has the income to lead a meaningful life. He not only gained the skills needed to start on a career path in the tech industry, but he gained invaluable employability skills along the way, like communication, problem solving and critical thinking.
But the story doesn't end there. In our conversation he asked how does he advance to the next level? What college path could he pursue while working and how could more education complement his new capabilities? 18 months ago he was struggling to keep groceries in his cupboard.
Now he has valuable skills, real options and the income to pursue them. In short, he has a life filled with hope and possibilities, all due to an accelerated pathway that earned him a shot at a fulfilling career.
He and others like him are why we need to create specific talent pipelines that open faster pathways to high paying jobs. Opportunities abound. From fast-track computer coding schools to two-year certification programs for electrical and instrumentation techs that can start at $70,000, heavy equipment operators that can start at $80,000 and plumbers, who after a few years on the job can make in excess of $100,000. Each is an example of high paying jobs, available through accelerated pathways, designed in partnership with industry, that open doors for Idahoans.
Is there a guarantee everyone in a talent pipeline will go to college? No, but does that matter? These are people, who like my young friend, need different options.
An accelerated pathway can improve their situation so they can later pursue more education if they want to - a choice they currently do not have.
Idaho is full of young people who for several reasons don't go to college. We have adults who have not kept their skills current and lack meaningful incomes. We have good companies who cannot grow because they are unable to find the specific talent they need. Talent pipelines and accelerated pathways can help resolve those challenges and improve Idahoan’s lives and Idaho’s future.