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“Future Tech Learning Center” coming to CEI

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IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - College of Eastern Idaho has been awarded a $1.2 million Economic Development Administration grant to design and build a 90,000 square foot career technical education facility. 

The state of Idaho provided $1.2 million in state funds for the planning and design of the new building and the EDA is now matching that grant. The building will house workforce training programs focused on energy, environment, and technology fields.

“EDA is pleased to support the College of Eastern Idaho’s locally driven efforts to enhance educational and career opportunities,” said Dana Gartzke, Performing the Delegated Duties of the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development. “This new facility, along with the college’s addition of new technology courses, will support the workforce needs of nearby Idaho National Laboratory, Naval Reactors Facility, and other businesses.”

Governor Brad Little said Idaho is seeing both employment growth and a record high labor force.

“We must continue to invest in education and workforce development to ensure our workforce is ready for the growth we are experiencing,” said Little. “Eastern Idaho is a corridor for research in technology and energy, and this latest investment is a welcome step in our state’s path to prosperity. Thank you to the eastern Idaho community for their hard work in securing more opportunities for Idaho citizens and businesses.”

Idaho Senators Jim Risch and Mike Crapo said the program will help advance career and technical opportunities for those with interests geared toward specialized technology and energy industries like those at the Idaho National Laboratory.   

“It will be the first career technical education (CTE) building for the College of Eastern Idaho. We are the only college in Idaho that does not currently have that type of building,” Ann Marie Peters, director of strategic partnerships for CEI said. “So it’s going to be a great addition for us, a great way for us to help students to improve their quality of life and get a family-wage living that’s appropriate to this area.”

Peters says CEI anticipates that a technical certification from Future Tech will land future students in a career with $22-$28 per hour starting wages not including benefits.

Dean of student affairs at CEI, Mike Walker says Future Tech involves employer partnership where CEI works with employers to hire recent graduates from various career paths. Some of these employers include INL, Elevation Labs, Melaleuca, and Premier Technologies.

“It’s a really great opportunity for students to not only make that $28-$29 an hour job, but to also have a career pathway,” Walker said. “And hopefully with a future and other types of partnerships, we can build on those pathways.”

Peters says the purpose of this building is to adapt to technology that changes everyday by being able to pivot to other focuses in the future. She says CEI will concentrate on jobs that are currently in the highest demand, which is monitored through the Labor Department and local employers. 

“This is a place where we give access to students because we’re passionate about helping them get jobs and be building the Idaho Falls and Bonneville County community and really all of Eastern Idaho,” Walker said. “We want to make this an economic powerhouse.”

Nuclear operator, nuclear technician, cyber technician, and computer network technician are some of the current job titles CEI will be aiming to train and fill with prospective graduates from Future Tech. Peters says in the future, they plan to train battery and solar technicians, which will be in demand in the future job market.

Each of these training programs are 2-year degrees. 

“We’re working on making sure that we have the best facility possible,” Peters said. “That’s why we’re calling it Future Tech, because it’s really future thinking in terms of both the physical building as well as the curriculum.”

Peters says the college is hoping to ascertain funding for construction to begin building the facility in early 2022. The construction is expected to take 1 year to 18 months. Future Tech plans to begin classes in 2023. 

“It’s important to note that this building will not just serve credit students, those students that are coming to get certifications, but it will also serve about the same number of students in workforce training, those students that come to us for classes that are just-in-time type learning, and also pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship training,” Peters said, “So it’ll be about 1,000 students a year that are served in this building.”

Workforce training at CEI works with employers and individual employees to give them up-to-date training and help workers sharpen their skills as job demands and technology changes overtime. 

“It’s a fantastic opportunity for this region to really improve people’s lives,” Peters said.

CEI is currently seeking more funding from federal grants and state allocations to fund construction for Future Tech. They are also looking for potential donors who would be interested in legacy giving.

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Chelsea Briar

Chelsea is a reporter and producer for Local News 8 and KIDK Eyewitness News 3.

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