(Editor’s note: This column is being re-published because the summary in last week’s newsletter did not link to the full story.)
Idaho’s economy is on an incredible path in the right direction. Idaho leads the nation in job creation.
Idaho is one of the top three states for income growth. Idaho remains the best place to start a small business.
With all of that…there is still work to be done. Not every community is enjoying the benefits of our positive economic successes and we must get those communities moving forward. We must ensure that no part of Idaho is left behind.
A fundamental truth of the free market system is that industries become more efficient generally through technology and mechanization. Critical to achieving future economic success is the pursuit of excellence in education. In order for Idahoans and Americans to compete and live the American Dream, it is necessary for them to have the best education possible.
Across Idaho, new industries are popping up. North Idaho has a growing aerospace industry that supplies parts to big airplane manufacturers like Boeing. We have many incredible ammunition and gun parts companies, with Lewiston becoming the hub for this advanced manufacturing. In the Treasure Valley there is an ever-growing technology sector that has chosen our state because of the quality of life. The Magic Valley is adding value to Idaho’s agriculture commodities through its growing food processing sector. Eastern Idaho has the Idaho National Laboratory, a premier nuclear research facility that is also expanding its cybersecurity research. We have incredible opportunities and we need the talent to feed these expanding sectors. This is a great problem to have.
We need to find the talented workforce now, and we need to cultivate it for the future. In order to continue to increase opportunities like this across Idaho, we have to make investments in our K through 12-education system, making it truly a K through career system.
We need high school graduates who are prepared to work hard and thrive in college and others who are career ready and want to learn a skill that prepares them to do the jobs of the future. We need engineers and we need diesel mechanics.
That is why the steady progress we are making on the public education’s task force 20 recommendations is so critical. Last year we emphasized reading proficiency for students from kindergarten through third grade. As the old saying goes, you learn to read by the third grade, and after that, you read to learn. We also made the biggest increase in career-technical education, building on existing dual credit and apprenticeship programs.
This year, in a continued effort to attract and retain the best and brightest teachers, we are increasing teacher pay and ensuring that the most qualified teachers are getting paid appropriately. Bottom line - great teachers, develop great students.
All of these efforts at the state level on public education do not discount local leadership and parental control. It is perhaps the most important thing. Student success starts at home and in hometowns.
When I travel Idaho and visit with businesses, they tell me what workforce needs they require to thrive and expand, I tell them that their participation means being engaged on their local school boards. Help educators develop curriculums that foster in-demand skillsets and create pipelines for future skilled Idahoans.
What I learned in high school doesn’t keep up with what students need to know today. This best possible education is ever changing, and we all know adapting to change is hard.
In order for good jobs and opportunities to replace the work of the past, we need two things. We need entrepreneurs to dream of great ideas and take a financial risk to make that dream a reality. We also need the men and women to skillfully build or create that product or idea, and improve upon it.