Iowa remains one of the most affordable places to live and do business, and that success is reflected in one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country.
So what can we do to keep Iowa's economy growing? Business leaders say improving worker training tops the list. When Iowa employers can't find the skilled workers they need, they end up losing business to competitors, hiring from out-of-state, or moving their businesses out of Iowa.
Middle-skill jobs are on the rise, making up about 56 percent of Iowa positions right now. However, only about a third of Iowa workers qualify for them, according to the latest report on Middle-Skill Jobs in Iowa. Middle-skill jobs encompass a wide range of occupations, from computer specialists and radiation therapists to carpenters and machinists-positions that require some education beyond high school but not a college degree.
Iowa's community colleges have done a great job of training the workers local businesses need via associate degrees, certificates and non-certificate programs. Recently, we've asked community colleges to do even more to prepare Iowans for skilled jobs that boost our economy and expand Iowa's middle class. That's why we invested more than $34 million in worker training this year, including:
$15.3 million to support job-training efforts by community colleges.
$5.5 million to help adult workers get the credentials to qualify for middle-skill jobs.
$5 million to coordinate training and education programs that enable returning students to get the workforce skills they need to fill local job openings.
$5 million to provide need-based financial assistance to Iowans enrolled in career and technical courses at our community colleges.
$2 million to "fill the gap" in financial aid by helping Iowans take non-credit classes to earn certifications and professional licenses.
$1.5 million to provide high school students with career orientation, job shadowing and internship opportunities that allow them to make informed college and career decisions.
For the latest report on Iowa's need for more skilled workers and the most in-demand jobs, go to portal.iowaworkforce.org/SkilledIowaLinks/MiddleSkills2013_Final.pdf.