Idaho Department of Labor area manager John Russ presents at the Meridian Chamber of Commerce luncheon on March 7.

By Holly Beech/MP

In 10th grade, I took a journalism class from former KTVB anchor Dale Dixon, who now works at the local Better Business Bureau.

One day, Dixon brought in an Idaho Statesman reporter to speak to our class.

At this point in my high school career, I knew I loved writing, but I didn't think I wanted to do that for a living. When I pictured a writing career, I thought of authors ferociously typing away all day in their home offices, complete with wild hair and pajamas. That life seemed way too isolated and lonely for me.

So when the Statesman reporter came to our class and talked about her job — which involved writing, interacting with people, chasing stories (and, yes, brushing her hair and putting on nice clothes) — my interest was piqued.

I approached the reporter after class, which led to my first internship with a newspaper. On my first day shadowing her, she got a call about a shooting in Caldwell, and off we went to try to talk to the neighbors.

My second internship came about five years later — also at the Idaho Statesman — when I was a junior in college. I needed internship credits to graduate with a journalism degree from Northwest Nazarene University.

During this internship, the business editor taught me a lesson I often think back on: Go deep with stories, not wide. I was writing an article about a new Pita Pit in Boise, but it started to turn into a biography of the franchisee. Don't try to tell every detail of the story, the business editor told me; find the most interesting aspect and drill down deeper.

A year later, fresh out of college, I applied and interviewed at the Idaho Press-Tribune. The paper didn't have an opening at the time, but the editor said I could come to the office for a few hours a day as a volunteer writer. This would give me a chance to learn new skills in a newsroom and hopefully prove myself as the right candidate for a future job opening.

Two weeks later, a job did open up, and I was hired.

Internships played a crucial role in shaping my career. I would not be a reporter at the Meridian Press today had it not been for at least one of those experiences.

STATE BOOSTS FOCUS ON APPRENTICESHIPS

The Idaho Department of Labor is trying to spread the word about the value of apprenticeships and training opportunities.

Last fall, Idaho received $1.4 million from the U.S. Department of Labor to expand apprenticeship programs in industries such as health care, information technology, advanced manufacturing and energy.

The program is open to both young graduates and older workers who want to expand their career options, Idaho Department of Labor area manager John Russ said.

“In Idaho we recognize that college isn't meant for everyone, and so we have to still provide opportunities for those who choose not to go on that college-degree path, but still provide them with some type of certification,” he said. “Because most every job that we have available here in the state does require some type of post-secondary education.”

Micro 100 Tool Corporation, a large Meridian manufacturer, has been running an apprenticeship program through the U.S. Department of Labor for years, partnering with Boise State University and the College of Western Idaho.

During the two-year program, an apprentice will get paid to work part-time at Micro 100 and to go to school part-time. The company will even cover the cost of college textbooks.

The investment has been worth it, because the company has trouble finding job applicants with sufficient math skills, said Micro 100 Chief Financial Officer Michael “Mick” Armstrong Jr.

Many of the apprenticeship graduates still work at Micro 100 and earn top wages as operators, Armstrong said.

“One is actually a supervisor now," he said.

Armstrong said he's interested to learn more about the state's expanding apprenticeship program.

Other employers or job seekers who want to learn more should visit labor.idaho.gov and click on the “Apprenticeships in Idaho” icon to the right of the page.

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