A well-educated workforce is the engine that drives our economy. That’s why Democrats in the Idaho Legislature were proud to support Idaho Launch earlier this year. Now accepting applications, Launch is a monumental step forward for our state, covering 80% of the costs for Idaho graduates pursuing in-demand careers, up to $8,000. From training nurses and welders to equipping young people with the commercial driver’s licenses they need to bring our products to market, Launch will allow more Idahoans to earn family-sustaining wages while helping employers hire the workers they need.
Every industry in Idaho faces a pressing need for more qualified workers with specific skills. The demands of the modern job market have evolved. Today almost 80% of all jobs require some form of postsecondary education or training. In particular, there is a growing demand for workers in “middle-skill” jobs — positions that require more than a diploma but less than a four-year college degree like electricians, bookkeepers, and medical assistants.
I was encouraged to see the broad, statewide support that Idaho Launch garnered when it was introduced in early 2023. Education leaders and every major business group in the state threw their weight behind it. They recognized the positive economic benefits for students and businesses alike. However, it was disheartening to see the unnecessary obstacles this program faced within the Statehouse.
The ideological objections and the rise of far-right extremism within our Legislature’s Republican caucus make it difficult for popular and much-needed investments like this to pass. Only a few years ago, the same brand of obstructionism killed an $18 million, 3-year grant to support early learning collaboratives across the states by making false claims that the locally designed programs amounted to “indoctrination.” Similarly, certain Republican politicians denounced Launch as “socialism,” ignoring our economy’s dire need for a qualified workforce. Those views are out of touch with the majority of Idahoans who understand the importance of preparing our youth for the jobs of tomorrow.
Without the unanimous support of Idaho Democrats in the Legislature, Idaho Launch would have failed. In the House, it passed by a single vote. If one Democrat representative had lost their election, Idahoans would be missing out on this smart investment to address serious workforce challenges.
Sadly, far-right ideologues want to dismantle the progress we’re making. That’s why Idahoans must speak out to protect Idaho Launch today. Contact your legislators and tell them you support investing in our future workforce. Encourage eligible high school seniors to consider the in-demand careers that await them with Idaho Launch.
Idaho Democrats remain committed to championing education investments to ensure the future prosperity of our state. Together, we can build a brighter future for every Idahoan.
Idaho Democratic Party Chair