More than 15 percent of adults in Idaho lack a high school diploma, and less than 20 percent of residents in Northern Idaho have a bachelor's degree. Until recently, though, a high school diploma or college degree was not a prerequisite for a well-paying job. Northern Idaho has long been a hub for several natural resource industries (for example, mining and timber), but these are dwindling. As a result, the five northern counties have a high unemployment rate and a low per-capita income compared to state and national figures (see Figures 1 and 2). Many unemployed residents are being forced to look for jobs, such as those in technology, requiring higher levels of education and workplace skills. The Adult Education Center is working with its partners to prepare these adults for new lines of work.
Collaboration is second nature to the Adult Education Center and its partners. In fact, the Center's staff cannot remember a time when they did not do their work through partnerships. Partnerships have been not only a matter of survival for the Center, but they also have been encouraged by the state. Since most of Idaho is sparsely populated, the state relies on a regional approach to delivering most services, including adult education. The success of this approach is dependent upon the willingness of state-supported organizations within each of the six regions (North Idaho is Region I), such as regional adult education centers and local postsecondary institutions, to form partnerships.
Federal programs and legislation also have encouraged the Adult Education Center to partner. For example, when North Idaho received a federal One-Stop grant, the Adult Education Center and other workforce-related organizations, such as North Idaho College and the regional offices of the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation and the Idaho Industrial Commission, were asked to form the Regional Collaborative Team (RCT). RCT was directed by the lead agencies of the grant—the Job Service and the North Idaho Private Industry Council—to explore ways to reduce duplication and enhance coordination of workforce development services in North Idaho. Although the One-Stop grant ended three years ago, the work of RCT continues with the support of the Workforce Investment Board, created as a result of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) of 1998. RCT now serves as the advisory committee to the One-Stop Center.