Workforce Development Training Funds Makes a Difference in the Lives of Those at Idaho Youth ChalleNGe Academy

Idaho Youth ChalleNGe Academy cadets

Graduating cadets can continue their education or use the certificates they earned to go immediately into the workforce with their in-demand skills. (Photo courtesy of Idaho Youth ChalleNGe Academy)

A year ago the Idaho Youth ChalleNGe Academy in Pierce wanted to enhance its technical training and career readiness programs but lacked the funding to do so. The $25,000 Workforce Development Training Fund micro-grant it received from the Idaho Department of Labor has helped make these plans a reality for the one year duration of the grant.

A dozen or so local organizations have also jumped in and donated their time, materials and expertise to help the academy improve the training offered to the at-risk teens who attend the academy from throughout the state.  In-kind donations from partnering organizations amounted to more than $36,000 of goods and services. Local organizations have donated supplies such as scrap metal and building supplies used in the metal fabrication and construction courses as well as donating their time which includes instruction hours or general job skills training like mock-interviews.

Idaho Youth ChalleNGe Academy welding

Learning to weld while at the academy greatly enhances future career options for these teens. (Photo courtesy Idaho Youth ChalleNGe Academy)

The Idaho Youth ChalleNGe Academy is a program for 16- to 18-year-olds who are at risk of dropping out or who have already dropped out of high school. The goal of the program is to give youths a second chance to become responsible and productive citizens by helping them improve their life skills, education levels and employment potential. The Academy is part of the National Guard Youth Challenge Program and is operated through a Cooperative Agreement between the National Guard Bureau and the State of Idaho.

The grant money has allowed the academy to hire vocational instructors and transform an unused area behind the gym into a functioning mechanics classroom. The academy was able to offer a limited number of students courses in construction and metal fabrication as well as lube technician training. At the end of the program, each student receives a certificate signed by their instructor and the principal which states the skills they have learned. These offerings have helped the students return to their communities and successfully land jobs.

Idaho Youth ChalleNGe Academy cadets working

Cadets learn to take pride in their work while learning valuable jobs skills. (Photo courtesy Idaho Youth ChalleNGe Academy)

One portion of the grant which has turned out to be particularly successful has been the career readiness aspect. During their time at the academy, the students are taught important skills needed to get a job including how to create a resume and market their skills to potential employers. They are then given the opportunity to practice those skills with local volunteers. The academy originally partnered with 23 volunteers from 16 organizations to offer mock interviews to students that included a career fair. This has now expanded to include about 53 volunteers from 30 organizations. Some of the volunteers have been so impressed during the mock interviews they have extended job offers to students.

The academy pairs each youth with a trained mentor in his or her local area and then tracks their progress made over the course of a year after the time at the academy. The academy typically sees an 80 percent success rate for the average student. Of the students who have attended the academy and taken one of these new courses and been back in their community at least six months, more than 90 percent have reentered or finished high school or gotten a job working at least 30 hours a week in a paid or volunteer position. One entered college to advance his study in auto mechanics.

When asked what he thought made the difference in success rates Bob Goddard, a counselor at IDYCA said, “The kids see the value in these skills and become more confident in what they can do. They realize they can not only finish high school but there is something about working with your hands that gives them the confidence to go on.”

Idaho employers finance the state’s Workforce Development Training Fund in its entirety through a 3 percent offset of the unemployment insurance tax. For a company to be eligible to receive training funds, it must pay a minimum wage of $12 per hour, provide employer-assisted medical benefits and sell its products or services primarily outside of the region where it is located.

The fund, established in 1996, is one of the state’s most powerful economic development tools available to support new and existing businesses seeking to relocate or expand in Idaho. Funds are awarded for training new workers and/or retraining existing workers with skills necessary for defined economic opportunities and industrial expansion or to provide innovative training solutions to meet industry specific workforce needs or local workforce challenges.

Learn more about how your business may be able to benefit from the many training resources, hiring incentives and other programs available through the Idaho Department of Labor.

–Kristie Winslow, technical writer
Idaho Department of Labor