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Connecting Idaho’s students with employers

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Debbie Kaylor

In his State of the State and Budget Address on January 11, 2021, Governor Brad Little emphasized the need “to invest in an education system that gives the next generation of Idahoans a solid foundation for lifelong learning and meaningful employment, here at home in Idaho. Our students are also Idaho’s future workforce.”

The Building Idaho’s Future plan he outlined “will support Idaho’s higher education system as well as career technical education programs across Idaho that connect students with employers who need them and equip students with the skills they need while they earn a degree. Our kids need to know all career paths available to them.”

Boise State’s focus on career readiness connects directly with Governor Little’s goals. Our students are already working toward future success through their academic programs, by taking advantage of the many out-of-classroom experiential learning opportunities available to them, seeking out support from our academic advisors and career counselors and connecting with recruiters at career and job fairs. Boise State is actively working to enhance our efforts to embed career education and experiential learning into students’ academic experience from first year through graduation. Our goal is for every student at Boise State to have the foundation of career readiness so they can make the most out of their college experience and successfully launch into their post-college life.

Recently, the Boise State Parent and Family Council wrote to President Tromp expressing their strong support of Boise State’s work to embed career education and experiential learning into the academic experience. They went on to say that practical experience would help students get better jobs with higher salaries more quickly. At Boise State, practical experience and experiential learning go hand-in-hand and can mean many things, including student jobs on and off campus, internships, practicums, clinicals, research, service learning, volunteer work or field work, to name a few.

Internships provide hands-on experience in a student’s field of study. On average, Boise State students participate in 1,100 internships for academic credit each year. Employers recruit and select their interns who work part-time during the academic year and often full-time during the summer. Approximately 40 percent of internships are paid.

The Work U program also provides hands-on experience to students, but based on skills, not majors. Employers submit opportunities each semester to which students apply. We place about 100 students each semester with 60 employer-partners. Students work 10 hours per week for one semester without pay in a high quality, mentored, professional environment. They also enroll in a weekly Work U class to unpack their on-the-job experiences and earn three credits.

The benefits to students who can participate in these experiences and our employer partners is undeniable. Access to unpaid internships and Work U opportunities for students who cannot afford to participate is an ongoing challenge. Many students at Boise State demonstrate a compelling need for financial aid. They are unable to participate in these high impact experiences because they cannot afford to take time away from jobs that will pay their rent or allow them to buy groceries. Each semester, Career Services awards a handful of $1,000 scholarships to Work U students. Funding for these scholarships comes from the Student Employability Fund. Our goal is to provide every student participating in Work U or unpaid internships with a scholarship to offset the lost income. We continue to look for opportunities to increase this fund.

The most important way employers will connect with our students and graduates is by hiring them. Career fairs provide opportunities for hundreds of employers to meet with talented Boise State students. Beginning in February, Boise State is offering virtual career fairs in six sectors: nonprofit, government, and public (Feb. 10); technology and engineering (Feb. 17); business and manufacturing (Feb. 24); human resource professions (Mar. 3); creative professions (Mar. 10); and, public health and health professions (March 17). For more information, to become a premier sponsor, or to register, please refer to

We invite all employers to join with us in meeting Governor Little’s goal of equipping Idaho’s students with the skills they need while earning their degrees. They are our future workforce.

Debbie Kaylor is Director, Career Services at Boise State University.

Disclosure: Idaho Business Review has participated in the Work U program.

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