Veronika Aviles and Ethan Leibrant are getting a jumpstart on their industrial mechanic careers, while Idaho Forest Group is countering labor hurdles presented by low unemployment.
Welcome to the School to Registered Apprenticeship Program administered through the Idaho Department of Labor.
Aviles and Leibrant, both seniors at Lakeland High School who attend classes through the Kootenai Technical Education Campus, have been hired by Idaho Forest Group as millwright apprentices. Theyíll receive on-the-job training while they continue their education through North Idaho College.
"The program is very flexible when it comes to school," Aviles said. "It's a great job to get hands-on training, especially at a young age."
Aviles's ultimate goal is to be a diesel mechanic. The apprenticeship program gives her the pathway to become one.
"I like big trucks, honestly," she said. "I love to tear vehicles apart and put them back together."
The students had to apply and interview at IFG and undergo drug and background tests to enter the program.
The two will work at the IFG's Chilco mill full time this summer and part time during the school year. Their starting wage is $14.34 per hour.
"We believe these opportunities are a great option for our students to be successful as they earn while they learn," Lakeland Principal Trent Derrick said.
According to the Idaho Department of Labor, seven out of 10 future jobs will require a career technical education, two out of 10 will require a bachelor's degree and one out of 10 a master's or doctorate.
"As a result of the high demand in the future job market for students who are CTE trained, it is important that we not only train students to be prepared to enter this job market, but also promote the career fields available to them," Derrick said.
STRAP communicates to students that post-secondary education not only takes place in four-year colleges and universities, but also via apprenticeships and internships in CTE fields, he said.
"We want our students to understand their options after high school," he said.
Marie Price, IFG's director of training and development, said the company has used more than 140 apprentices at its seven mills in the region.
As apprentices earn hours toward their journey-level status, the teens are exempt from child labor laws.
"It's really a great way to build confidence and skills for these students," Price said.
She said the program also complements IFG's culture of "growing your own" employees.
"Many employees have been with us 20, 30 and even 40 years," she said. "There are a lot of opportunities to learn and it's a wonderful family environment."
Mike Henley, IFG's regional manager, said the company has been using STRAP for about five years. Aviles and Leibrant will learn several aspects of the business, including welding, machinery installations and hydraulics.
"It's a win for us and a win for the students," he said. "It's a way for us to get potential employees while they are young and it helps them decide a path in life."
Students from Sandpoint and Clark Fork high schools have also been employed at IFG through STRAP. Henley said 12 students have been hired through STRAP.
"A lot of employers are not aware of the program," he said. "We hope to pick up a few more students over the next year."
Price said the program helps IFG overcome a perception challenge of the forest products industry as well.
"There's a perception that these are less-desirable jobs and that they're more seasonal," she said. "This shows we do have stability and that we have desirable jobs with family-sustaining wages."