IDAHO FALLS – College of Eastern Idaho, county and city officials, business owners, and members of the community celebrated the completion of the Eastern Idaho Workforce Training Center on Wednesday afternoon.
During a ribbon-cutting at 101 Technology Drive in Idaho Falls, CEI President Rick Aman told those in attendance the goal of the building is to provide professional development and enhance career opportunities for the community and CEI students, as well as “improve the pipeline of industry-ready students.”
“These are blue-collar, trade-related jobs. Everything from HVAC, (electrical work), plumbing, heavy equipment operation, welding and advanced manufacturing,” Aman tells EastIdahoNews.com.
An increase of construction and business development projects has created a huge demand for skilled trade workers in eastern Idaho.
Although many high school students pursue college degrees after graduation, Aman says learning a trade allows you to enter the workforce with a high-paying job much sooner.
“You can always work on a degree while you’re out on the construction site,” Aman says. “A lot of what we try to do is convince anyone who’s interested … into these kinds of jobs.”
Job training for inmates
Another industry benefitting from the training center is law enforcement.
Bonneville County Sheriff Samuel Hulse says the amount of applicants at the sheriff’s office is much lower than it used to be. The office is planning to provide training for new recruits and generate interest. It is also working on a program to provide job training for ex-convicts transitioning back into society.
“Depending on how long a person has been incarcerated, things have changed a lot (with technology). And quite often, they haven’t had an opportunity to develop a skill,” Hulse says. “With a criminal record and no marketable skills … it can be pretty difficult to find a job.”
In conjunction with that, the sheriff’s office wants to help inmates who are serious about making better lifestyle choices to receive job training while they’re still in jail. The idea is to jumpstart the transition process for certain inmates. They’d go to class during the day and come back to the jail at night.
The program is in the initial planning stages and will involve the court system. Hulse is hoping it can start next spring.
A long time coming
The center is a project that started coming together about six months ago, but the concept was first suggested in the 1990s. Bonneville County Commissioner Byron Reed told the crowd that former Commissioner Cliff Long first proposed the idea.
“At that time, several people were being laid off from the Idaho National Laboratory, the economy was in a slump and he was concerned about what would happen with these displaced workers,” Reed said.
A member of the community donated the property where the training center now sits, and Long worked with the mayor to get an economic development grant to help fund the project.
Long worked with Bateman Hall Construction to get it built.
“Coincidentally, our advisory council is now chaired by Aaron Johnson, who is with Bateman Hall. So it’s ironic that they built the building more than 20 years ago, and here we are now,” said Reed.
The INL leased the building from the county for many years. It was gifted to CEI earlier this year on the condition that it be used for workforce training.
“We are so appreciative of the county commissioners. These are expensive buildings. This is exactly the kind of building we’d build if we had the funds, so it’s exactly what we needed at the right time. We’re very excited about this,” says Aman.
Before the ribbon-cutting, the Regional Development Alliance, Inc. presented a check to CEI for $727,865.73.
Community classes will begin the first week of October, but the facility won’t be fully operational until February.