The Idaho LAUNCH program's website has some great tools to explore all kinds of in-demand occupations, including their average salaries, write guest columnists Jerry and Carrie Scheid. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Carrie: Guess who are the luckiest kids in Idaho right now?
Carrie: High school seniors.
Jerry: Why’s that?
Carrie: Because … for the first time ever, Idaho high school seniors who graduate next spring will be eligible for up to $8,000 to cover up to 80% of their tuition and fees at an eligible Idaho college or job training program, regardless of their family’s income. The program is called Idaho LAUNCH.
Jerry: What programs can it be used for?
Carrie: The funds are designated for “in-demand career” education or training.
Jerry: Who decides what’s an “in-demand career?”
Carrie: The Idaho Workforce Development Council has published a list of over 240 occupations which are considered “in-demand.” These occupations have at least 50 openings annually in Idaho.
Jerry: What are some examples?
Carrie: Here’s just a few: farm and ranch managers, electricians, school teachers, nurses, automotive technicians, nuclear technicians, dental hygienists, veterinarian technicians, loan officers, police officers, lawyers, real estate agents, insurance salespeople, computer technicians, etc. There’s plenty more!
Jerry: What college or training programs qualify for these funds?
Carrie: They can be used for virtually any program offered by Idaho’s community colleges. They can also be used at Idaho’s public colleges and universities if the program is connected to an “in-demand” career. They can’t be used to earn a history degree unless, of course, you are enrolled in a K-12 teacher education program. K-12 teacher jobs are considered “in-demand.”
Jerry: What about private colleges?
Carrie: So far, Brigham Young University-Idaho, the College of Idaho, Northwest Nazarene University and Western Governors University are approved for Idaho Launch.
Jerry: What about apprenticeship or training programs not offered by colleges?
Carrie: Yes, as long as the training is related to an “in-demand” occupation listed on the Idaho Launch website and the provider is approved by the Idaho Workforce Development Council.
Jerry: How do high school students apply for Idaho Launch funds?
Carrie: The application period opened Oct. 3. Initial applications are due Nov. 30. To apply, go to the Idaho LAUNCH website https://nextsteps.idaho.gov/launch.
Jerry: When I was 18, I had no idea what career I wanted. How does a high school senior figure that out?
Carrie: The Idaho LAUNCH website has some great tools that let you explore all kinds of occupations. It shows whether they qualify for Idaho LAUNCH as well as their average salaries, and the knowledge, skills and work values needed to succeed at them.
Jerry: I like their “Future Finder” button. Because you know what you’re good at better than anyone else, it asks you to pick your top three talents from their list. Then it guides you toward career choices which match your abilities.
Carrie: And their “Plan Smart” button helps you figure out how much money you need to live on. It helps you calculate home costs, medical, food, entertainment, etc. so you can pick an occupation which will give you a decent living.
Jerry: Where are the Idaho LAUNCH funds coming from?
Carrie: The Idaho Legislature. It passed a law last spring establishing the Idaho LAUNCH grant program for high school seniors graduating in spring 2024. It is anticipated there should be enough to cover half of all graduating seniors.
Jerry: All the more reason to get onto the website and start the process right away!
Carrie: The website also contains info on Idaho Opportunity Scholarships which can be used at four-year Idaho colleges. And for adults who wish to get training, there is a smaller Idaho LAUNCH program they can explore.
Jerry: Reminds me of what Teddy Roosevelt once said: “Far and away, the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard, at work worth doing.”
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