It’s no secret that Idaho’s population is increasing, and along with it comes more job opportunities and more competition. In fact, in Lumina Foundation’s A Stronger Nation report, they estimate that by 2025, 60% of Americans will need some type of post-secondary credential, or education or training beyond high school. Currently, Idaho estimates that only 41% of its population has attained post-secondary education or training. In order for Idahoans to keep pace with this growth, they will need to decide how to continue their education after high school.
Source: Lumina Foundation, A Strong Nation; Idaho Report 2019
Contrary to some assumptions, increasing your education does not mean you have to obtain a bachelor’s degree from a four-year institution. There are many career fields and employers who are satisfied with career and technical training programs, apprenticeships, or associate’s degrees. This is why researching your career goals is essential to identifying the best education or training path for you. The last thing you want is to waste time and money on classes or programs that do not give you that competitive edge with employers. So being prepared means understanding what education options are available and how those options align with the job market.
There are also several ways for individuals to increase their employability through professional development opportunities. Adding short term trainings or certificates is a great way to boost your skills in areas that you might be lacking. Employers can be looking for specific skill sets and competencies, and completing these shorter programs can be a smaller commitment, but provide a significant boost on your resume. Programs like the Idaho SkillStack or a local community college are great places to find short-term programs like these to increase your skills.
Source: Idaho Business for Education and J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation, Idaho Education Field Guide
There are also several online tools that can help research and explore career opportunities through providing trends, statistics, wage analysis, and educational requirements for the Idaho workforce. Idaho Department of Labor’s JobScape, ONet, or Idaho Next Steps can give any job searcher, or those considering post-secondary education, a snapshot of Idaho statistics. You can quickly learn what jobs are in demand, the required education level, and how your earning potential significantly increases as you attain postsecondary education and training.
Source: Idaho Department of Labor, Idaho Hot Jobs
Continuing your education is not only a time commitment, but also a financial investment. Luckily, depending on which program you plan to pursue, there are several places to access financial assistance. For instance, qualified Pell Grant recipients may find significant financial assistance towards an associate’s or bachelor's degree. Those seeking career and technical training programs may find support through various government programs. And apprenticeships can offer wage while simultaneously earning certifications and job training. There are also thousands of scholarships, such as the Idaho Opportunity Scholarship, for qualified Idaho residents that can help tuition and cost of living expenses while attending school.
Idaho’s job market is changing, and we don’t want Idahoans left behind. “In a presentation to the joint budget committee Wednesday [January 17, 2018], STEM Action Center Director Angela Hemingway said ‘7,000 science, technology, engineering and math jobs went unfilled in Idaho in 2017, double the number from the year before.’” With so many postsecondary opportunities, there are several options for individuals to pursue to increase their education, and in turn, their employment and earning potential. Don’t let not knowing your options and opportunities keep you from pursing your goals. Together, Idahoans can close that gap, and have educated and qualified workers to meet the demand of our growing workforce.
-Jenifer Gariepy is an Educational Specialist with TRIO Educational Opportunity Center, where they help qualified adults seek post-secondary education and career training opportunities. For a complete list of their services, visit www.uidaho.edu/eoc. The Educational Opportunity Center is 100% funded by the Department of Education, and sponsored by University of Idaho. All their services are free!