CSI continues to build skilled labor force with competitive programs

Published: Oct. 19, 2022 at 4:34 AM MDT
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TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) —The City of Twin Falls is growing, and so is the College of Southern Idaho whose student population and programs offered have grown over the years.

CSI’s enrollment is up 2.4 percent compared to a year ago, said Dean of Institutional Effectiveness and Communication Chris Bragg. Some at the college believe part of it has to do with the state of the economy, and the growth of the Twin Falls population base.

“We are the only Hispanic serving institution in Idaho, a lot of that is attributed to the growing demographics of our Hispanic community,” said CSI Provost Todd Schwarz

Additionally Dean of Career and Technical Education Barry Pate said the college has a good reputation and close connection to industry leaders in the Magic Valley.

“We are trying to offer programming in areas where people can get good high-paying jobs,” said Pate. “It’s kind of hard to get in the door without some training or credentials. Those are the programs we try to focus our attention on.”

When it comes to general education classes at the college, sometimes students have a little issue getting into the classes they want. Schwarz said it’s sometimes kids get put on waitlists because students want to take a class(es) at a specific time with a specific teacher.

“A lot of times the waitlist is generated even though there might be offers in other classes,” Schwarz said. However, those issues are easy to fix with the school’s adjunct faculty, “We have not turned anyone away that wants to take a science, math or English class.”

Additionally, Pate added time of day can resolve some of those issues too for programs and classes, if there is say a facility that is used during the day but not in the evening. That can sometimes free up options for students and teachers.

However, career and technical classes (CTE) like nursing and welding are a little bit more tricky to get into, as they are very competitive and have limited space. Such is the case with the school’s automotive class.

“There are not a lot of places where you can take it. That’s why we have people from Spokane and Washington,” said CSI automotive student Jayde Ward.

Bragg said right now 85%-90% of the college’s CTE programs are full. Some programs are limited to 16 students, due to accreditation requiring schools to have a certain student-to-staff ratio. Additionally, CTE programs typically start in the Fall and are a continuous, sequential curriculum that run an entire school year. Therefore, if a student can’t get into a program in the Fall, the student might have to wait an entire year, if not more.

“Sometimes they can take some general education classes and sort of get themselves ready to come into the program,” said Pate. “It’s frustrating for them to not be able to get into the career path they have chosen.”

Pate added anywhere the school can do remote learning they do it, but with a CTE program, it’s most effective for students when they can get that face-to-face interaction with the instructor and hands-on experience.

CTE programs are also hard to scale because they are so dependent on the amount of physical space, and qualified faculty. However, Pate said one thing CSI has done in the last couple of years is expand its programming into high schools. CSI has a welding program that is taught for dual credit during the day at Cassia Regional Technical Center and is taught to adults during the evening at the same facility. CSI also has a dual credit program for welding in Jerome, and it is taught to adults in the evening.

“So that allows us to get capacity a little bit out there, spread out, and they(students) have access when they might not be able to get to our Twin Falls campus,” Pate said.

Schwarz added the school plans to expand the automotive program with the construction of a new building thanks to a $10 million appropriation from the state. However, bricks and mortar won’t solve everything.

“We need infrastructure. We need staff and all those sorts of things. in the case of the health professions we need clinical locations,” Schwarz said.