More than 100 local high school students came through Compass Academy on Monday night to get a glimpse of the high-paying jobs available in eastern Idaho.
Your Future in Technology, also known as YourFIT, was a career expo for technical jobs that are in high-demand fields but only require a two-year degree or certificate. Idaho National Laboratory, Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center, the College of Eastern Idaho and Idaho State University’s College of Technology set up booths at the high school to encourage students to start thinking about job paths that go through them.
YourFIT was started in 2016 by Idaho National Laboratory and Bannock Development Corporation, the economic development nonprofit for Bannock County. Bannock Development President John Regetz said that talking to students early helped encourage them to prepare for these careers during high school and get hired as soon as they become qualified.
“The companies are here because they want to deepen the talent base here and capture the most immediate talent that will be emerging,” Regetz said.
The YourFIT website touts jobs in eight fields that were chosen based on high demand, high wages and short schooling time. The high-tech professions pay between $37,000 and $80,000 per year, have high retirement rates and a lack of skilled young people to fill these positions.
Counselors from Compass Academy, Idaho Falls High School and Skyline High School worked together to organize the event and get the word out to middle and high school students. Monday’s event was smaller than some of the other expos in eastern Idaho, as the schools didn’t set up this event until after the most recent grant cycle had ended.
Compass Academy counselor Samantha Booth said that students take a survey when they enter the event and another one as they leave, to measure how much they had learned about the careers at the expo. Those results will be shared with the Idaho Department of Labor, schools and employers to help improve the future career events.
Robbie Shirts, a Compass Academy sophomore, attended the event after his family got an email about the expo. He said that the interactive technical displays from INL and ISU were his favorite part of the expo. In the interactive displays students tried to hack into each other’s miniature computers and practiced pattern recognition on a button-pressing game made by ISU’s nuclear engineering students.
“It’s interesting how you are able to hack another computer and think strategically. I’m definitely interested in doing something with computers,” Shirts said.
The school gym was set up to focus on health care jobs at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center and Idaho State. Alejandra Vega, a Skyline High School junior, was there to learn specifically about being a pharmacist.
“I’m trying to take a class on that next year. My aunt does it, and it seems pretty cool,” Vega said.
A 2018 report from YourFIT found that the number of students interested in the careers at the expo nearly doubled at the end of the event, going from 24 percent interested to 47 percent.