Caty Solace 

"Right now, we know of programs that are generating 100 percent placement into the workforce."

Caty Solace

George Prentice

Caty Solace

Caty Solace spends her days talking about higher education—not attending a four-year university, but taking a more personalized journey that could include online learning or attending an Idaho technical schools. As communications manager for the Idaho Division of Career-Technical Education, Solace excitedly talked about an upcoming hands-on event designed to link teenagers and their parents with Idaho employers who understand how to land some of the most sought-after jobs in the Gem State.

Can I assume a fair amount of your time is spent busting myths about what has been commonly called vocational education?

A huge portion of my job is bringing that into the technical age that we're in now.

The former senior vice president of Google once told The New York Times that many people going to college put too little thought in why they're going and what they want to get out of it.

It's much less about what piece of paper you end up holding. It's much more about what you can actually do.

Who are you targeting with that message?

We're reaching teenagers, of course, but the key is to reach parents and school counselors.

And the average age of a student in a career-technology education program is...?

Twenty-seven years old. We're trying to bring that average age down. But there are a good many people out there with a degree, but not necessarily with any skills. I was just interviewing a student who went to college and got a four-year degree in journalism. But then he wasn't able to gain any employment. So, now he's at the College of Southern Idaho in their wind technology program. He's got a degree with tangible skills for that industry. Right now, we know of programs that are generating 100 percent placement into the workforce.

Excuse me—100 percent?

Energy systems instrumentation, unmanned aerial systems, diesel technology, practical and registered nursing, surgical technology, aerospace and a few more.

I'm intrigued by your upcoming event [Wednesday, Aug. 2] at JUMP in Boise.

We've never done anything like this before. We'll fill the plaza with a lot of hands-on examples of what kind of jobs are out there. That's where you'll also find reps from all of Idaho's technical colleges.

And scholarships?

Attendees can post photos on Facebook or Twitter, tag us, and be eligible to win more than $14,500 in scholarships.

But parents and teens want to hear the straight scoop from employers.

Upstairs, in JUMP's huge circular room, there will be people from Simplot, Scentsy, the Idaho Technology Council, Thomas Cuisine Management, the Idaho Hospital Association and the Association of General Contractors.

We adults commonly make the mistake of asking 15- or 16-year-olds, "What do you want to do for a living?" when, in fact, we should probably be asking, "What do you like to do?"

That's the key. Do you love cooking or food? Well, you should probably be talking to the folks at Thomas Cuisine. Do you like robots or drones? The Idaho Technology Council would love to talk to you. Growing things? Let me introduce you to Simplot. Building or fixing things? There's the Association of General Contractors. But on how many occasions would you find them all in one room, anxious to talk to you?

Traditionally, the middle of summer isn't the time teenagers think about careers.

But their parents sure are.

How do you best reach those parents or school counselors?

We've had tremendous success via Facebook. It just so happens that we'll also be hosting about 800 educators in Boise at the same time. It's what we call our annual Reach Conference for Professional Development.

The name for that Aug. 2 event?

It's pretty simple: Journey to a Career. Simple, but incredibly important.

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