Local organizations are finding new ways to develop a talented workforce and support entrepreneurship in the Treasure Valley, according to the University of Idaho.
“The number one concern of business owners when they are considering relocation is talent,” said Clark Krause, director of the Boise Valley Economic Partnership, who works to attract and grow businesses in Treasure Valley.
Business leaders approached by BVEP express similar concerns: Is there a talented workforce in the Treasure Valley?
BVEP works with the University of Idaho and other organizations to make sure that the answer is yes.
“The students educated at the University of Idaho have opportunities to stay here or opportunities in other states,” said Krause. “It’s important that we have a great relationship with the University of Idaho to encourage that talented workforce to choose Boise and Idaho before we lose them to other states.”
Introducing talented students to potential employers is one of UI Boise’s economic development initiatives. With the majority of their students in Moscow, they’ve developeda strong pipeline from Moscow to the Treasure Valley.
“We work with local groups like BVEP to connect the academic side in Moscow with the economic side here in Treasure Valley,” said Mike Satz, Executive Officer for Southwestern Idaho with the University of Idaho.
Satz sits on the BVEP board, along with participating on the Core Leadership team of the Treasure Valley Education Partnership and the Educate Idaho Network. He also works with the Boise Chamber of Commerce.
Representing the university, Satz focuses beyond current college students to include younger students. The goal is to support and improve education for students from Pre-K to their career.
“One of the problems we see is that students in sixth grade want to become astronauts, but by eighth grade, they don’t want to do it anymore,” said Satz, concerned about students’ struggles with math, science and other STEM subjects. “We want to show them ‘Yes! You can do it,’ and then show them different ways to learn.”
Studies show STEM jobs are projected to grow at a greater rate than other occupations in the United States. These jobs also pay higher wages than other occupations, according to the Discovery Center, another local organization focused on economic development through education.
UI Boise held a free STEM coding camp for children in Nampa in early August, since this skill is not taught in most K-12 schools in Idaho, yet highly sought after by employers. Several teachers attended to receive one-on-one coding training from a University of Idaho computer science professor. They will take the curriculum back to their schools for further impact.
Along with educating the future workforce, the university works to educate and support the current workforce, including entrepreneurs.
"University of Idaho is proud to partner with Trailhead, Startup Grind, Zions Bank and other local organizations focused on nurturing an entrepreneurial community right here in Boise", says Danielle Horras, Director of Strategic Initiatives at UI Boise.
"There are multiple benefits to having a U of I campus location in Boise. One key benefit is our ability to match the strategic plan for the University with the unique needs of the Southwest Idaho region,” said Horras.
When local entrepreneurs gather in downtown Boise at Trailhead, a non-profit for entrepreneurs, there is a constant flow of coffee sustaining ideas; coffee that is sponsored by the University of Idaho.
Beyond fueling entrepreneurs with coffee, UI Boise participates in events providing training and inspiration for businesses, like Startup Week, an event encouraging the entrepreneurial mindset in October, an economic development conference also in October, and the Business Essentials Summit, an event for small business organized with Zion’s Bank for June.
“Some entrepreneurs lack exposure to or confidence with the ‘nuts and bolts’ of starting or growing a business…If we can fill in these knowledge gaps or enhance skill sets, we should see more sustainable, successful small businesses,” said Karen Appelgren, director of the Business Resources Centerat Zion’s Bank and organizer of the Business Essentials Summit, which UI sponsors.
These gaps are being filled with community programs like the Small Business Legal Clinic, a UI Boise program that has helped more than 100 businesses throughout Idaho.
“People across the ecosystem of Idaho society are coming together to tackle education problems for our states economic growth,” said Satz.