Superintendent of Public Instruction Debbie Critchfield and KTEC Director Visit IDL Fire Cache, Find CTE as Key Solution for Idaho’s Skilled Workforce Needs

Thursday February 9, 2023

Coeur d'Alene, ID - Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Debbie Critchfield visited the Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) Fire Cache in Coeur d’Alene today. The visit included leadership from Kootenai Technical Education Campus (KTEC). They discussed the skillsets Idaho employers need and how Career Technical Education (CTE) can help fill the gap. Critchfield’s visit coincides with national CTE Month.

“Aligning Idaho industry’s needs with CTE training programs in our schools is a commonsense way to fill gaps in our workforce,” Critchfield said. “My goal in visiting the cache was to see firsthand the local need so we can create educational opportunities to address it. Providing students with these important skills while supplying industry with a capable workforce is a win-win for Idaho.”

“The Logistical support needed to suppress wildfires dovetails neatly with CTE training,” added Critchfield.

IDL’s Coeur d’Alene Interagency Fire Cache provides supplies and equipment to support wildfire incidents throughout Idaho and other western states. Last season the cache served crews battling more than 200 wildfires. Equipment returned to the cache is repaired before sending it back out. Last fire season IDL refurbished 855 pieces of equipment and enough firehose to stretch 280 miles, the distance from Coeur d’Alene to McCall.

“Firefighter lives depend on this equipment working perfectly when it is deployed on the next fire,” said IDL director Dustin Miller.

At the cache, 12 full-time state employees work year-round with seasonal staff brought in during peak fire season. They handle inventory valued at more than $12 million.

During the tour IDL explained the challenges it faces in recruiting skilled workers for building wildland fire engines, maintaining small engines on pumps and chainsaws, operating equipment like forklifts and driving commercial vehicles.

“It has become more difficult to find people trained to do the type of work needed to help protect our forests and the people of Idaho,” said Miller. “I would love to see more young people gain interest in wildland fire fighting and other natural resource careers with IDL.”

KTEC Director Colby Mattila agreed. “KTEC sits at the crossroads of introducing high school students to career opportunities and putting the technical skills they gained through our program to work locally after graduation.”



Video of Superintendent Critchfield interview at fire cache