Idaho Division of Career Technical Education awards $3.5 million in “Building Idaho’s Future” grants to secondary and postsecondary CTE programs

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The Idaho Division of Career Technical Education (IDCTE) has awarded $3.5 million in grants to expand and modernize Idaho’s secondary and postsecondary career technical education (CTE) programs to meet Idaho’s growing need for a skilled workforce. The grants were awarded to all six technical colleges and a mix of rural and urban districts statewide.

The one-time funds were made possible by the “Building Idaho’s Future” initiative, Governor Brad Little’s plan to use Idaho’s record budget surplus to provide Idahoans historic tax relief and make strategic investments in transportation, education, broadband, water, capital construction, and other critical areas.

“By investing in career technical education, we are investing in our workforce and Idaho businesses. My ‘Building Idaho’s Future’ plan is all about strengthening our state for today and the next generation of Idahoans,” said Governor Little.

CTE programs that provide state-of-the-art, hands-on training for high-skill, in-demand careers have increased in popularity.

“The intentional alignment between our secondary and postsecondary CTE programs provides for a seamless, more efficient, and cost-effective mode of continuing education. That means less time—and money—to acquire the necessary training to obtain in-demand jobs,” said Clay Long, state administrator for IDCTE. “Idaho’s employers have a hand in developing a talent pipeline catered to their needs, and our Governor and legislators can see that CTE programs help to fill the skills gap and keep Idaho competitive.”

To be eligible for funds, programs were prioritized based on alignment with regional workforce needs, demand for occupation, number of job openings, and projected growth rate.

“We wanted to make sure we were investing in occupations that are growing in demand, both to ensure employers have a skilled workforce and students can find jobs in their area of study upon completing their programs,” said Long.

In addition to granting funds for secondary and postsecondary programs, Building Idaho’s Future also provided $3 million to the College of Eastern Idaho’s FutureTech building, an 88,000 square-foot, state-of-the-art facility designed to house labs and classrooms to accommodate students in energy, environmental, and technology programs. It also provided $1.25 million for Workforce Training Centers (WTCs) to develop and deliver content, including $750,000 for training programs specific to the food processing and manufacturing industry. WTCs, which are located at Idaho’s six technical colleges, develop programs to help train or retrain employees to keep up with the needs of their employers and fill hard-to-fill positions.

“We appreciate Governor Little’s recognition of the shared level of importance of ensuring students enrolled in secondary and postsecondary programs and Idahoans already in the workforce have access to the technology, training, and equipment they need to be ready for their careers,” said Long. “It will be exciting to see how this investment in our students and workforce will help our state in the months and years to come.”

Idaho switches GED credentialing service, waives fee for High School Equivalency Certificate

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Effective Sept. 28, 2020, the Idaho Division of Career Technical Education (IDCTE) will move from DiplomaSender to Parchment to manage and verify all General Education Development (GED) records for the state. The GED is a series of four tests that measure high school equivalency. More than 1,900 Idahoans passed the GED in 2019, and even more are expected to pursue a GED in 2020 because of COVID-19.

“We decided to move to Parchment because it directly connects with the GED records system,” said Molly Valceschini, State Program Director, Adult Education and GED for IDCTE. “That means students don’t have to create an additional account to access their documents or experience delays in getting their documents simply because of account login issues that take a long time to resolve.”

Now, students who pass the GED will be immediately sent an email notification with links to download electronic versions of their documents and instructions for ordering paper copies. Also, more than 90% of U.S. admissions offices can receive and download electronic documents from Parchment securely.

“That can really make a difference for students applying for jobs or post-secondary institutions,” said Valceschini.

Because all records can now be accessed electronically, the State Board of Education approved IDCTE’s proposal to waive the $10 processing fee for the High School Equivalency Certificate (HSEC), which is the GED counterpart to a high school diploma. After a tester passes the GED test series, they may order an HSEC directly from Parchment.

“IDCTE supports increasing equity and access for Idaho students. Students who earn their HSEC by passing the GED deserve to receive the document they’ve earned free of charge,” said Valceschini. “I think it’s important for Idahoans to move forward in their academic and professional lives without any additional barriers, and removing the certificate fee is a step in the right direction.”

State Board of Education approves new definition of specialized certificate

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The Idaho State Board of Education approved the addition of a new section to Idaho State Board of Education Governing Policies & Procedures, Section III.E during the Aug. 26 regular Board meeting. This change defines a specialized certificate, which provides additional opportunities to further develop or upgrade skills in an occupation for individuals who already hold a certificate or degree.

The new definition distinguishes a specialized certificate from the current academic, basic, intermediate, and advanced technical certificates. The Idaho Division of Career Technical Education (IDCTE) proposed the change after they and the Technical College Leadership Council identified a need to develop a specialized certificate for completing specific, industry-validated courses that are sequenced to develop and upgrade skills in an occupation.

“This is not entry-level training. It’s really for more advanced students who have industry experience and are working towards more advanced technologies and experiences,” said Jeffrey Ober, Ed.D, dean of career and technical education at Lewis-Clark State College.

Up until now, a smaller number of credits defined the basic certificates, while a higher number of credits defined the advanced certificates.

“We needed a certificate that represented work completed by students that were at a fairly advanced level but involved fewer credits,” said Barry Pate, Ph.D., dean of career and technical education at the College of Southern Idaho. “We have students who may have already completed a degree and are returning for additional advanced training. This specialized certificate is awarded for that level of achievement, even though the number of credits completed may remain small.”

The specialized certificate will allow technical colleges to continue to work closely with their regional and local employers to provide an additional level of specialized training.

“Our technical colleges play an important role in creating new opportunities for adults to advance in their careers,” said Adrian San Miguel, Director of Program Services for IDCTE. “As we work towards economic recovery and regrowth, this certificate will help to fill critical skills gaps.”

Fire service training administration to be moved to Idaho Division of Career Technical Education

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During the State Board of Education’s Aug. 26, board meeting, Idaho Division of Career Technical Education (IDCTE) State Administrator Clay Long announced that they intend to transfer Fire Service Training (FST) from the College of Eastern Idaho (CEI) to IDCTE in July 2021.

FST provides fire training credentialing for career and volunteer firefighters in Idaho. Credentialing is the certification process for firefighters after they have completed an approved fire service training course. Many municipal fire departments require firefighter credentialing to even test for a position.

CEI had administered FST since 2014 when the FST program was transferred to the technical college system to gain efficiencies. During that time, CEI secured more than $1 million in federal grant funding to purchase state-of-the-art fire training equipment to support ongoing skills development for more than 180 Idaho fire departments.

The proposed change will ensure Idaho’s FST provides a statewide system that allows institutions to meet the needs of their region and industry. FST will use IDCTE’s existing SkillStack® system for student record management, and institutions will have the flexibility to deliver needed training to their region. FST will continue to provide training and services for regions without fire training programs at their technical colleges.

“Over the years, CEI has made significant progress in administering FST. I am excited to build on that success and leverage IDCTE’s existing statewide framework to ensure access to training and certification for all individuals who serve in the fire service in Idaho,” said Long.

Travis Myklebust, fire chief for the Lewiston Fire Department and president of the Idaho Fire Chiefs Association Board, supports the change.

“The Idaho Fire Chief’s Association is excited about collaborating with IDCTE. We feel this is the best move to ensure career and volunteer firefighters in Idaho are safe, educated, and able to respond to emergencies,” said Myklebust.

Myklebust added that collaboration with IDCTE would foster relationships with regional colleges to provide education and keep students in Idaho to serve their local fire departments.

The decision also has the support of CEI.

“We look forward to working with IDCTE to transition this important training program back to the state to provide further efficiencies and access by both professional firefighters and students,” said Michelle Holt, executive director of the Workforce Training and Continuing Education Center at CEI. The decision was made after several months of conversations with a variety of stakeholders, including CEI, the College of Southern Idaho, the Technical College Leadership Council, the Idaho Fire Chiefs Association, and the State Board of Education. In the coming months, IDCTE will work closely with these stakeholders to ensure a smooth transition and minimal disruptions. A copy of the memo announcing the change was sent to stakeholders.