By Rep. Mark Sauter, R-Sandpoint
Later this week, Lt. Gov. Scott Bedke will be in town to talk with our students and school staff about the Idaho Launch program. It’s a grant/scholarship program for 2024 high school graduates who decide to “go on” with their education and into high-demand careers. Our community needs plumbers, welders, electricians, truck drivers, millwrights, medical professionals and many other skilled workers. The program promises $8,000 for our students to use over a two-year period.
The No. 1 reason students say they are not going on to further their skills and/or education is the funding it takes to do so. Launch funds can be used for traditional college courses; but, to do so, the courses must be related to an in-demand type of career (for example: certified nursing). The Idaho workforce development council has a list of 200 in-demand jobs posted on their website.
The concept of the program came from an earlier Idaho scholarship program for career technical education (CTE). Employers have opined there are not enough trained new employees for their workforce needs. Recruiting workers from other areas is tough because of our housing shortages and high cost of living. So “raising” our own workforce has become an option worth a try.
Employers pay property taxes and hence school fees, even though they don’t have kids in the district. So the Launch program reinvests some of those tax dollars into the pool for future workers. Statistics have shown the earning potential for those who get certificated and/or journeyman training is significantly improved in a relatively short period of time.
Local high school counselors have been informing their students about the new program since September. I have attended excellent parent-student meetings in Sandpoint and Bonners Ferry. Their students are beginning to apply. Clark Fork High School seniors will do their applying as a group next week. Hopefully, students at Priest River Lamanna High School and Forrest M. Bird Charter Schools will take advantage of the program as well.
State staff are tracking the number of Launch program applicants. The hope is that we increase the number of “go-on” students from about 40% to 60%. If we can achieve this, employers in our area will have a better chance of filling their employee needs.
The bottom line is this program gives our local students a “hand up” to getting into a good career utilizing in-state training. It gives our kids a chance to stay here. It helps keep our community sustainable. We raise our families here, work here and have generations coming up to fill the needs of our area.
Being a part of programs like Launch has convinced me to run for another term with the House of Representatives. Expect to see more from me soon about my campaign. I know I will be challenged for my seat.
I ran on a platform of supporting conservative principles like education, job growth, low regulation, tax reform and public safety. I vowed to be a responsible representative for our entire area. I believe I have remained true to my platform and to our residents. However, we still have work to do. I have a list of things to follow up on in the upcoming legislative session.
I encourage you to do your research. It’s been said that elections have consequences. With the last primary election in mind, we know there will be attacks on me and my voting record. Names and labels will be thrown about. Feel free to contact me to know more than what an opponent’s campaign flier may offer.
Rep. Mark Sauter is a first-term Republican legislator representing District 1A. He serves on the Agricultural Affairs; Education; and Judiciary, Rules and Administration committees. Contact him at [email protected].
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