by Idaho Department of Labor Director Melinda S. Smyser
Not too long ago, St. Mary’s Hospital in Cottonwood found itself in need of a medical lab scientist. After searching eight months for a qualified applicant, hospital officials worked with their local Idaho Department of Labor office to develop a registered apprenticeship program. Today the program is working so well St. Mary’s plans to set up a second apprenticeship for the same skill set.
As I meet with Idaho employers, they tell me they all have one thing in common with St. Mary’s Hospital. They need a pipeline of skilled workers with industry-specific training and hands-on experience.
Registered apprenticeships are a proven strategy for successfully building that pipeline and benefits both businesses and job seekers. Most employers see reduced turnover costs, greater employee retention, increased productivity and an average of $1.05 returned for every dollar they invest in their employees.
Apprentices benefit by on-the-job training and earn while they learn, reducing student debt. They see increased opportunities for promotion and higher wages over the course of their careers. Nationally, nine out of 10 find themselves gainfully employed at an average starting salary of $60,000 per year, and over the course of their careers, earn $300,000 more than their non-apprenticed peers.
Millennials – people born between 1980 and the late-1990s – are the largest generation in the U.S. population and critical to economic success of the nation and Idaho. Today, there are almost 73 million millennials in the U.S. and over 365,000 in Idaho, where they are growing faster than the rest of the nation. This particular demographic also represents the workforce of the future.
Employers often characterize millennials as lacking soft skills, entitled, unmotivated and having a tendency to “job-hop.” While there is undoubtedly a need for this cohort to meet an employer’s expectation for soft skills, it is also worth taking a deeper look at the root cause of these stereotypes and identify any underlying circumstances that might influence the ability of millennials to succeed in today’s job market.
Idaho millennials are more likely to have a job, but on average, earn about $3,000 less than their national counterparts and are more likely to live in poverty. While education rates have increased in Idaho and nationally since 1980, Idaho millennials are also significantly less likely to hold a bachelor’s degree or higher, which could explain the below-average wages they earn compared to their counterparts.
Nationally millennials are living at home with a parent and the rate of those living alone has remained stable and low. Compared to the US, Idaho millennials are less likely to live alone or with a parent and much more likely to be married. They are also slightly more likely to be veterans and significantly less likely to be minorities.
Economic development officials in Clearwater, Idaho and Lewis counties are concerned about the availability of workforce housing, especially in Cottonwood, Craigmont, Kamiah, Nezperce, Orofino and Pierce.
Some leading employers say their new hires often run into trouble finding housing in the region. A few workers end up turning a job down because of it. Since those recruited from outside the area typically are highly skilled such as machinists, welders, engineers and technicians, a lack of housing can lead to production losses for businesses.
Nightforce Optics, the Orofino riflescope manufacturer that now employs about 100 people, has encountered difficulty finding housing for machinists and professionals it tried to hire.
The National Guard Youth ChalleNGe program, preparing to open in Pierce in January, wound up advertising in the local newspaper for information about homes available for sale or lease to the employees it will hire.