Idaho Public Television today announced the launch of American Graduate: Getting to Work, a career readiness initiative that will produce local content focused on helping young people obtain the skills needed for high-demand jobs.
Preparing workers for so-called “middle-skills” jobs, which require training but not a four-year college degree, is becoming a priority in many communities. Those careers — such as electricians, dental hygienists, paralegals, construction workers and police officers — make up the largest part of the labor market in all 50 states, according to the National Skills Coalition.
IdahoPTV has begun working with community partners — Idaho Department of Labor, Idaho Career and Technical Education, Idaho Workforce Development Council, and Idaho State Board of Education with projects such as the Next Steps Idaho website and the Idaho Career Information System portal — to assess workforce needs and determine the best strategies through which to illuminate the pathways to post-secondary education and career placement.
Over the next two years, new locally produced content will be added to the American Graduate website idahoptv.org/americangraduate and shared on social media. Content will include video interviews with Idaho students, employers, teachers, counselors and parents sharing stories and information to help young people navigate the paths to their chosen careers.
American Graduate: Getting to Work is made possible by a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). IdahoPTV is one of 19 public media stations nationwide to receive a grant of between $170,000 and $200,000. The station previously aired American Graduate Day programming and produced American Graduate Champion videos celebrating local mentors, but this is its first time requesting a grant. With the funds, IdahoPTV has hired multimedia producer Andy Lawless to create original content and to work with community partners to develop strategies for reaching young people.
“I’m excited to explore the opportunities available to folks entering the workforce here in Idaho and tell those stories,” Lawless says. “There’s a perception that in order to have a good career, a four-year degree is required, which for many is cost prohibitive. But with Idaho’s 17 career and technical schools, we see a variety of ways in which people can affordably fast-track their way to a great skills-based career, whether it be in health sciences, manufacturing, business, technology or agriculture. My hope is that by fulfilling the initiative of the American Graduate grant, and informing the public about the pathways to high-demand jobs, we’re able to help people find a better place in the workforce and improve their lives.”
A recent study by the United Way shows that even with 4 percent unemployment in Idaho, 40 percent of households cannot afford basic needs such as housing, food, health care and transportation. Lawless says that some of that can be attributed to Idaho’s workforce not having the training necessary to fill those middle-skilled, in-demand jobs that offer higher pay.
Even though pursuing a certificate or two-year degree requires an initial investment of time and funds, 96 percent of technical college students found jobs or began military careers, or continued their education, according to Idaho Career and Technical Education.
In an April interview with the trade journal Current, IdahoPTV General Manager Ron Pisaneschi and Jeff Tucker, the station’s director of content services, discuss the benefits of increased technical training to Idaho employers, especially in the state’s rural areas. Tucker notes the collaboration between yogurt manufacturer Chobani, which recently announced a $20 million expansion of its facility in Twin Falls, and a community college that is teaching workers how to program and operate specialized equipment at the plant.
Pisaneschi explains how traditional industries like logging benefit from middle-skills training programs. “This isn’t your father’s or grandfather’s idea of a logger,” he says. “This work is computerized and uses lasers. In the old days, all you needed was to enjoy physical labor outdoors. Now it involves high-tech skills.” Pisaneschi also stresses the importance of technical training for the sustainability of Idaho’s rural towns. “We’ve found that lot of parents are reluctant to have kids go on to higher education because they don’t want them to leave the community,” he says. “But having a trained workforce available there will make industries interested in those communities.”