Bills Can Help Us Skill-Up Iowa’s Workforce

United Way of East Central Iowa believes Iowa can do more to support low-skilled workers and we are encouraged to see bills (SF429 and HF604; amendment 1320) are being considered by the Iowa Legislature.

These bills would appropriate $31 million from the general fund to the Department of Education for a variety of workforce training initiatives. They would invest state dollars in adult basic education such as high school equivalency programs, Career Pathways programs (connecting education and training to help students secure a job in a high-demand industry) and pathway navigators, which put more low-skill adult workers on a path toward earning postsecondary credentials.

We believe that these funds would help the 23 percent of Iowa working families who cannot meet their basic expenses. These families often are working multiple jobs, earning wages that do not cover such fundamental needs as transportation, and child and health care, and have no time to continuously improve their skills and training.

More than 289,000 working-age Iowans do not have a high school diploma or equivalent. And 56 percent of jobs require middle-skill training, but only 33 percent of residents have the necessary skills and credentials for these jobs.

Locally, United Way of East Central Iowa is committed to partnering with local businesses, Kirkwood Community College and community-based organizations and other stakeholders to address the skills gap. Iowa’s economic demand for skilled workers is strong. Local employers project that 66 percent of all new and replacement jobs will require education beyond a high school diploma by 2014.

Industry sector boards and career pathways are two examples of progressive strategies that our community has launched to help address the skills gap. These strategies would receive funding if the workforce bills are passed into law.

In 2010, Kirkwood initiated development of an Advanced Manufacturing Industry Sector Board to develop and sustain a comprehensive regional career pathway system targeted to meet the needs of both employers and workers.

United Way of East Central Iowa is partnering with Kirkwood, local business and community-based organizations to assist low-income adults access training within industries that need skilled workers and offer wages sufficient for families to meet their basic expenses. Three Career Pathways are currently offered: Advanced Manufacturing, Health Care and Information Technology.

We believe that if these bills are passed they will help our community accelerate what’s already being done locally.

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Posted in Financial stability, KPACE

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