The College of Eastern Idaho and Premier Technology are partnering to train more welders.
Welding is a fast-growing field locally — Premier alone needs to hire 150 to 200 welders in the next two years to support its current contracts. CEI offers an associate of applied sciences welding degree, but the number of welders CEI can graduate is “a drop in the bucket compared to the needs in the region,” CEI said in a news release. The two-year program enrolls 16 students, graduating eight to 10 yearly with, college officials said, all of them getting jobs on completion.
The welding field has seen rapid growth throughout the state of Idaho over the past five years, with that increase topping 22 percent in the eastern Idaho region,” Hope Morrow, regional economist for the Idaho Department of Labor, said in a statement.
Premier needs “welders with specialized, demonstrated skills with the ability to perform at the high level of quality and specifications required by our customers, and we need them right now, not in (two to four) years,” Shelly Sayer, the Blackfoot company’s chief executive officer, said in a statement. CEI and Premier plan to test “a new competency-based modularized training program,” CEI said.
“As a new community college it is important to us to work with regional business and industry,” said college President Rick Aman. “We’re very excited to be partnering with Premier Technology to help create this program that can benefit the entire welding industry in our area.”
CEI is training existing Premier employees now as it develops the program, said Michelle Holt, CEI’s executive director of workforce training and community education. In mid-September, she said, people will be able to enroll to take the same modular-style training. It will be offered at CEI, on Saturdays over the course of six weeks.
Any person or regional employer will be able to develop specific welding skills through CEI’s training. The program breaks existing welding techniques into “modules” that can be taught in shorter sessions, Holt said, combined with testing. Students will get Idaho SkillStack badges to certify their competency.
Growing job training programs has been one of the major focuses of state education policy in recent years, both to meet Idaho’s gap in skilled workers and to help meet the state’s goal of getting 60 percent of the state’s 25- to 34-year-olds some sort of post-high school degree. Expanding career technical education programs and improving coordination between educational institutions and industry was one of the recommendations of a task force of education and industry representatives and state officials that met in 2017 to study workforce development issues.
CEI, which was Eastern Idaho Technical College for decades before voters approved creating a community college district last year, plans to continue to look for similar opportunities to expand its course offerings.
“We would love to partner similarly with other regional employers,” Holt said. “We are currently working on an Industry Sector Grant application through the Idaho Workforce Development Council that will allow us to expand this program in partnership with several employers in the area.”