Building Tomorrow’s Workforce Today Event – Oct. 31, 2012

On Wednesday, October 31, 2012, the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance, Kirkwood Community College and United Way of East Central Iowa hosted a community discussion about the best practices and idea generation to build a strong future workforce. Developing tomorrow’s skilled worker has become more important than ever.

Click here to see photos from the event.

The program, held at The Hotel at Kirkwood, featured the following guest speakers:

Rick Dickinson, CEO and President, of the Greater Dubuque Development Corp., talked about how Dubuque positioned itself to draw IBM to the community.

Lily French, Director of Field Education and Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Iowa School of Social Work, talked about what happens if we don’t equip people with the skills needed by local industries. (Video not playing? Try the transcript at the end of this post.)

Kim Johnson, Vice President of Continuing Education and Training Services at Kirkwood Community College, talked about the types of strategies that are being implemented and developed.

(Video not playing? Try the transcript at the end of this post.)

Table discussion

Attendees engaged in roundtable conversation. Here’s what we learned from participants:

What is needed to turn the curve and meet local skill demands?

  • Develop a portal for employers to communicate their projected and real-time skill needs.
  • Equip individuals with both technical and soft skills training.
  • Engage and mentor youth early to explore careers in demand in the region.

Attendees indicated a need to have information about available career exploration and training programs.

  • KPACE- Kirkwood Pathways for Academic Career Education and Employment Program

To learn more contact Judy Stoffel with United Way at 319-398-5372 or go here.

  • Workplace Learning Connection

To learn more about this program contact Mary Lou Erlacher at 319-398-4825 or go to

Attendees expressed interest in participating on advisory committees and boards.

Kirkwood Community College initiated the development of the Advanced Manufacturing Industry Sector Board. To learn more about sector boards and other advisory committee opportunities contact Kim Johnson, Vice President of Continuing Education and Training Services, at 319-398-5525.

Kirkwood Community College, the Metro Economic Alliance and United Way will convene to determine next steps in a broader regional approach to addressing the skill and wage needs of residents. Click here to receive the United Way newsletter and get updates on how this work progresses.


Lily French

Good morning.  Thank you for the opportunity to be here this morning.  I’m really glad that we started with something that was so uplifting and that showed the contrast of the dark and the light.  I’ll be honest in that I am not merry sunshine with my message today.  But, I think it’s really important that we have facts behind us and that we understand the base from which we’re building upon to make the changes in our community that we all seek.

What I would share with you is that without significant collaboration between the social service sector and the private sector, Iowa communities will continue to face growing unemployment and particularly underemployment rates and increased poverty rates.  That may sound startling.  How can you say that?  I’ll show you where this comes from.

But what has happened over the last couple decades, and particularly the last decade in Iowa, is that despite having very modest standards of living, you know, compared to other communities and other states around the nation, individuals working are not able to keep up with the raise in cost of living expenses and that’s really what we’re finding.  There is the fact that if we don’t do something to really increase the education and training opportunities for individuals at the lower end of the wage spectrum, our communities will have increased poverty rates and we’ll continue to see growing rates of un- and underemployment.  And there’s really a loss—there’s a loss in our community of economic vitality, there’s a loss of human capital, and there’s a loss of opportunities for the residents of our communities.  So I’m going to talk with you about where we’re at so that we can make informed choices going forward.

So what we’ve done is that we’ve constructed cost of living budgets.  We’ve been doing this for a while.  I’m not going to give you the history, but I want to tell you what it is we’re doing and why we’re doing it.

We felt that it was very important to have a clear sense of what it costs for individuals, whether that’s an individual person, a married person a single person, what it costs for households in Iowa to make ends meet.  We wanted to develop a survival budget.  What does it take to get by?  So we’ve used a few budget assumptions.  One we wanted to make sure that they had everything that they needed to be able to work full-time.  So you’ll see that reflected here.


  • We included child care for individuals who didn’t have a parent staying home with a child;
  • We included very basic clothing and household expenses and telephone, clothing, very minimal level of expenditures;
  • Food: we assumed that all food is cooked and eaten home using the USDA low-cost food plan (so there’s no eating out, everything is prepared right at home);
  • Healthcare: we wanted to make sure that people had healthcare so we split the cost down to the county level between what people pay out-of-pocket for their portion of employer-sponsored care, or if they are uninsured, to buy it on the private market;
  • Housing: we wanted to make sure everyone had a home so we’ve included rent at the 40th percentile of HUD market rates.  We didn’t say we’re going to top of the line, we don’t want anything substandard.  So just a bit below what would be the average so 40% of HUD market rate;
  • And transportation: people need to be able to get to work.  Because Iowa lacks an extensive public transportation system, we really worked under the assumption that people needed a vehicle to get to and from work.
  • We also know that everyone pays taxes.  We’ve got state taxes, income and payroll taxes included.  So we did this and we calculated a very basic survival budget for 89% of Iowa households.


We have 21 family types represented.  I’m not going to glaze your eyes with that and I only have 15 minutes, so we called up a couple to give you an example. So at that very basic threshold we determined that a single parent with one child working full-time would need to earn $18.08 an hour in order to meet that very basic threshold.  If they were to have a second child, that would actually jump up to $24.88, so almost $25 an hour.  This is in your community; this is in the Cedar Rapids and Metropolitan statistical area.


If we had a different family type—we looked at married couples—if one adult was working and one was able to stay home with the child, that’s reducing the childcare expenses.  Still, that individual parent would need to earn $19.56 an hour.  If both parents are working with two children, they each would need to earn $14.49 an hour.  So these are much higher wages than when we start thinking about the minimum wage or even the median wage.  If you look at the median wage in this community, which is around $16 (it’s $15 in the state, but it’s $16 in Cedar Rapids) – – $16 an hour, this is reflecting that you’re going to need at least two workers in the household in order to meet those basic living expenses.


And before we go on from these numbers, I’d just like to point out that there are some things that we know that would be in a thriving budget that we’ve completely omitted.  You’ll see there’s nothing included for if you have an emergency—if your car breaks down, if you’re sick, if you don’t have paid leave and you’re unable to work there’s no cushion for you.  There are no savings for training whether that’s your professional development or your children’s training down the road.  There are no savings for retirement. There’s nothing included here for birthday gifts or Christmas gifts.  There’s nothing including for recreation and there is absolutely nothing included for debt, which we know is a reality for many Iowa households.


At this very, very basic level, we’re talking about these family types are needing to earn between $15-24 an hour to survive.  That is not the history of Iowa and that is not the assumption that many people are working upon.  So what this means is that we have to look very critically and very intentionally about the kinds of wages that are in our community and how we help people secure those kinds of wages.


I did want to let you know because I know that there are others in the room that work outside of Linn County, this information is available for a variety of family types, not the four that I just mentioned, and it’s available for all 99 counties.  So you can go to the Iowa Policy Project website, you can click on this map, click on your county, and up will pop information, so we have that for everyone.


The other thing that I think is important to share is that – – and we talked about it in an hourly wage, you know that $18.18 an hour.  It’s good to look at it in an annual sum as well.  So we look at the annual salary, we determined that a family supporting wage, again is that survival budget, is really for a single adult around $20,000 a year; for a single parent with one child it’s $32,000 a year and you can see as it goes down.  What we noticed is that when you compared that with the federal poverty guideline because that’s the discussion that a lot of people and we’re talking about what are the needs of our community.  It’s all based around what are our poverty rates.  This is how we determine who is in need in our community.  What we’ve discovered is looking at specific Iowa spending down to the county level.  The federal poverty guideline really underestimates what our families need to live and work in our communities.  In each of these instances, families are needing to earn actually about 200% of the poverty guideline or twice what the federal poverty guideline is.


You can see for a single parent with two children the federal poverty guideline is $18,530 and we’ve determined that actually they need to earn over $42,000 at that very basic threshold, everything that I talked to you about, what they would be able to bring home.  There is a significant disconnect between what gets described as the needs of our community using that standard and what families actually have to earn.  And I’ll just say briefly because sometimes folks have a real question about how could that be and how does that happen.  I’ll just throw out there that the federal poverty guideline was established almost 50 years ago.  The methodology since that time has not been updated.  It was based on taking the largest expenditure for families, which was food at that time (it was one-third of their expenses), multiplying that times three and that was the threshold.  Today, families spend only a sixth to a seventh of their budget on food.  So there is a growing disconnection.


The federal poverty guideline also assumed that women were not a formalized part of the workforce so they omitted childcare.  They also have one housing cost whether you live in Iowa, Minnesota, Mississippi, California. There isn’t that geographically variation when we know there’s a difference between living in Hiawatha and Cedar Rapids and Lone Tree.  There’s variance that way.


And the third area which creates this growing disconnection is transportation.  Our transportation costs have gone up dramatically since the mid 1960’s.  People live farther away from work; to get to and from work just costs much more.


As long as childcare, housing and transportation are a significant factor for families—and I would say that they are actually the largest portions of a families’ budget (you can see that childcare, housing and transportation are)—there’s going to be a growing disconnection between the federal poverty rate and what families actually need to live and work.  So it’s an important bit of information to hold in mind when you’re looking at statistics, when you’re trying to describe what you’re communities’ needs are and when you’re trying to determine who needs the assistance.


To go a step further, and we’ve added this because we’ve been pressed, which is good, we’ve been pressed by legislators when we’ve shared this information, they would say, yeah, we have an idea that Iowa’s wages aren’t keeping up.  We understand that the model a family says that they those higher wages.  But when it really comes to Iowans, how many people are struggling?  We need to know, we need you to look at Iowa household and say how many are falling below that line.  And we can say that for the first time and this is where it is stark and needs some specific responses and creativity.  There’s also tremendous opportunity for these households.


We’ve learned that 23% of Iowa households who are working (this omits elderly households and it omits households that have someone who’s working less than half-time), so a household who has at least someone working half time or more, 23% of those households in the State of Iowa are working and not earning enough to get at that very basic level of survival or financial assistance.


When you look at groups you’ll see very quickly some groups are doing better than others even among the group that’s performing the best (married couples without children) is 12%.  That means more than one out of ten married couples without children are working and are not earning to meet their basic needs.  When you look at single parents, it’s a dramatically different story.  Again, because I sort of communicated, our wages actually require that you’re going to need to have two adults to meet our living expenses now.  Living expenses have gone up, even in Iowa.  Single parents: 3 out of 4 single parent households are working and not earning enough to get by.  Linn County is doing a little bit better.  The overall number of households who are struggling in Linn County is 18.7%, so just about 1 in 5 households in Linn County are working and not earning enough to get by.  I’m sure most people in the room don’t feel that that’s an adequate number even though it’s better than the state average.  However, there is an opportunity to do something about that.


I have to move very quickly.  And I just wanted to reflect, just a quick picture of another way to understand the financial realities that families are facing.  This assumes a single parent is working with two children in Cedar Rapids at $9 an hour.  What we’ve discovered is you line up those $9 an hour for year around employment against all the expenses that we outlined and the person is short over $17,000 a year working at $9 an hour.


There is something that can be done. We can work collectively to fill in the gap between low wages and what it costs to live in our communities.  One of the ways we do that in the State of Iowa is through a variety of work support programs that would address some of those things—childcare assistance, food assistance, public health insurance, the state and federal earned income tax credit—but ways that we can help folks at that low level get by.  And with all those programs together, they actually have over $4,000 in excess at the end of the year to be able to use for what their needs are.  The only difficulty in that—and this is the big picture—that’s relying only on public supports and there are other supports that can come into play, and that’s something that we’ll be talking about with our next speaker.  Relying only on the public supports that exist for Iowans, you’ll see that they do okay at that low wage level with the public work supports, up until around $12 an hour.  And they hit a significant cliff when lose childcare assistance.


The most important thing for us to recognize is that they don’t break even again until they reach $18 an hour.  And they don’t get back to where they were before they lost that childcare assistance and those public supports until $20 an hour.  So the question for us is if that’s the economic reality, if people are working, if they are doing their part, if they are not earning enough to meet their basic living expenses, if the public supports that we have in place don’t fill in that gap, how do people get from $12 an hour to $18?  How do they get from $12 to $20 an hour?  And I believe and many of us in this room believe that education and skilled workforce development is the way that they make that leap.  With every successful level of education attained, unemployment rates go down, wages go up.  We know that individuals who earn more with each successful level of education until you reach a doctoral degree, which at point we’re not going to be particularly concerned, you’re doing okay, an individual with some college but no degree earns $268 more per week or that’s $14,000 a year than someone who has less than a high school diploma.


Dee mentioned that high school education isn’t enough for the needs of businesses today.  It’s also clearly not enough for Iowans to support themselves.  That’s very evident.  Unemployment and underemployment rates of those without a high school diploma are more than double of those with an associate’s degree.


So it doesn’t matter whether we look at unemployment or we look at wages, we look at poverty, it’s undeniable that education pays for Iowans; and this holds true even in hard times as better educated workers are less likely to fall into poverty when they hit economic difficulties, like the recession we’ve just have been recovering from, and because they spend less time without work after a job loss and they’re more likely to be re-employed at comparable wages.


In addition to it having a benefit for individuals, earnings rise, unemployment goes down, underemployment goes down, people living in poverty goes down, it’s also a tremendous benefit for our broader communities.  With higher levels of educational attainment among your communities’ workforce, your local businesses have better trained workers, there’s more income in the community, and we expand and there are lower levels of poverty within the broader community.


We’ve also done some research that shows that investments in education benefit the state budget because obtaining a higher education actually allows workers to work more hours, to have higher wages, they’re able to earn more overall and they pay more in state income tax and also sales tax as they’re purchasing things in our communities.  So the result is that it puts more money into the program than is actually even paid out.  That’s when you consider that some people might not be successful and it’s also when we looked at migration.  Maybe we trained some people and they moved out of our state.  We still show that investments for low income adults generate more tax revenue to the state than the program costs.  For an associate’s degree with every dollar invested there’s a return of $3.70; that’s to the state budget that doesn’t even talk about the broader benefits to the community, which actually is in the range of $5.37 for the community for every dollar invested.  And for a bachelor’s degree it’s $2.40 for every dollar. We have a lot of data that shows the benefit of post-secondary education or higher learning opportunities for individuals.


I think I’ve hit my time.

Kim Johnson:

Kim Johnson

Kim Johnson

So Rick and Dee talked about how workforce development, economic development and community development are so closely intertwined. And what Lily has helped us also understand is how workforce development, education and training is closely intertwined with individuals being able to compete and receive wages which help them for a sustainable family.

This is a complex issue and that’s why I have titled this Building Opportunity Through Partnering. We are not going to be able address this issue without partnering, and within this community I feel that we are very lucky with the partners that have come together and are coming together to address our workforce challenges in the region.

Kirkwood Community College’s mission is in the essence, I believe, of workforce development in terms of identifying needs, providing access and opportunity to education.

This is just a little bit about who we are and the reason I put this slide in here is I think it also talks to the impact education and training has within our region due to the number of graduates at Kirkwood that live and work in Iowa and in particular in our region, it’s about 75% to 80% stay in our region that graduate.

We are working and have been working for many years and continue to work towards being a labor market responsive community college. Our learner success agenda is squarely placed within labor market responsiveness ensuring that we are helping our students complete to compete and that we are continuing to strengthen our regional leadership through partnering with regard to workforce and economic development.

At Kirkwood Community College we are very fortunate to partner with the Iowa Workforce Development system and the Iowa Works office located in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City. Through that effort, we are liaisons to the Regional Workforce Investment Board and that board is established to ensure that particularly the federal funds that flow through our community are aligned to the workforce needs of the community. So individuals that are receiving case management, tuition support, childcare and transportation, those investments are being made in occupations and careers which are in demand and pay sustainable wages within the community.

I just talked about Iowa Works in Iowa City and Cedar Rapids; they’re engaged in working with job search, resume building, training and development, transferable skill assessment to again assist employers with their workforce needs.

The skills studies are one mechanism we use to ensure we’re remaining in close contact and that we’re listening to what employers are telling us about their workforce needs. We also engage in a variety of other tools, again to ensure we’re data informed. I like the info action comment that Rick made. So we do use labor market data, our local inquire data, we also are really stepping up our work with industry clusters and industry sectors. I know I’ve seen several members here from our advance manufacturing industry cluster and what those organizations do, as employers they come together to talk about their common workforce needs and other needs that they have. The advanced manufacturing industry costs are for instance one of the areas of concern that they have is they have good occupations, high wages, sustainable living; however, sometimes the perception of that career or occupation is not the best, particularly because of how manufacturing was hit in the recession, even though our region fared very well as a manufacturing community during the recession. So that employer group, that’s one of their agenda items: what can they do as employers to address that perception to help increase the pipeline of workers that will be coming to their organizations? We use focus groups. Most recently we are pulling together a group of employers in healthcare claims management—Revenue Cycle Management—because again the data was telling us this is a growing occupation area in the region and employers were saying our applicant pools are extremely tight so we’ve pulled a focus group together to see is there something we might be able to do to help address this and get individuals the skills to compete for positions within that cluster.

All of our academic programs have advisory committees comprised of employers in the region that provide counsel and advice. We’re in the process of developing a workforce regional service plan under the direction of the regional workforce investment board which we’re very excited about. And then we also enter into the public policy work that Steve has helped lead with partners such as United Way and the National Skills Coalition.

So at Kirkwood we have several different audiences that we support through workforce development opportunities. We have our academic programs which are largely one-year diploma and two-year degree programs. We have our continuing professional education programs which are short-term certificate and skills credential programs which now are aligned and in the future when any new program is developed, they are aligned to the credit one-year and two-year diploma. Our philosophy is there should be no loss point. A student is a student at Kirkwood Community College. If they come through the doors of a short-term credentialing program because of their current life circumstance, they can give 16 weeks but they don’t know if they can give two years yet, they should be able to get that 16 weeks work but when they are ready or have a tuition reimbursement plan at an employer, they can come back and still have credit for that short-term program that they took.

Employer contracted training, Amy Lasack leads our division there. Just doing a ton of work right now with regards to employers with regard to training their existing workforce. And we are continuing to do more work with the populations that are underemployed and unemployed that need to get to the 18 and 20 dollar an hour jobs. Programs like KPACE—Pathways for Academic Career, Education & Employment—are one mechanism, and I’ll talk about some other new programs we have and existing programs that work with that.

We have also available to us, because of the support of our legislature, tools that we can use to address the workforce issues. Tools that are available to businesses, new and existing, to train their employees, we have our GAP tuition assistance fund which had been piloted at several community colleges and just this past year received funding from the legislature. And this is a tool that allows us to help individuals who are 200 percent or below of the federal poverty level—so it’s the individuals who are underemployed at that 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 dollar an hour range—to take short-term credentialing programs to either start them on a pathway to a diploma or degree or move them into the workforce at a higher wage. This fund pays for that tuition. Because our federal financial aid program does not recognize non-credit education, it is not eligible for PAL. This is a mechanism to use then to assist individuals whose life circumstance dictates a short-term intervention at this time.

We also have a workforce training fund, which is used really in a similar manner to gap but it really is helping us do more of the targeted industry cluster work in development of new programs. We refer to it often as our innovation fund at Kirkwood because it helps us provide the resources we need to flush out new programs like our new renewable energy distribution degree that we have on campus. And then we continue to work with grants and private foundations to braid as many funding streams as we can to get our resources out to individuals in need.

So I just wanted to talk a little bit about – – I was asked to talk about what strategies we have put in place to address the workforce development needs. These are a few of them which particularly tie to training and education. There are many other ways we are trying to engage in the workforce community through our workplace learning connection office in terms of increasing opportunities for internships through our career services office at Kirkwood who works with alumni community members and students to help prepare them out to the job market.

So in response to needs that have come forward through this data and through our work with employers, these are a variety of programs that have been developed recently:

  • Our energy production and distribution degree began a year or two ago. We leveraged some state funding in order to be able to get that very expensive degree off the ground. You can imagine the type of equipment we have. If you haven’t had a chance to tour our renewable energy center, I recommend that you do. It’s pretty remarkable.
  • We have a new Advanced Manufacturing Technology Degree that was put in place based on impact and based on what we heard from our advanced manufacturing employer group.
  • We will be launching a logistics certificate next fall. Evone Vogenson and her team have been working on that. Again, one of our growing industry clusters it was clear in skills 2014.
  • Our Pharmacy Tech Diploma is addressing a need.
  • Our Customer Service Professional Certification was really our first foray into industry cluster work in 1998 and it’s been a program that has stayed in existence through today. It’s probably on its fourth or fifth iteration of curriculum to keep up with the industries needs, but it is a program that we pull off the shelf when it is in demand. It’s not necessarily offered every semester and so we are in the process of pulling it off the shelf because we have heard a tightening with regard to the customer service representative positions in the region.
  • Youth is another area of our workforce population that we need to keep our attention on so we’ve been doing some STEM-related camps to try to help that workforce arm for the region.
  • Our most recent pilot project which because of the results we’re now replicating in Linn County, is very similar to the program that Rick talked about in Dubuque being a short-term CNC, a one-semester training program. And then we also have the same program established for welding, and it is an opportunity for individuals to receive tuition, childcare and transportation assistance as they go through to complete this education with employers who have committed to interview and hire after they received their credentials.

I’ve talked about our work with industry consortiums and sector boards. Currently we are working with the information technology sector, Advanced Manufacturing, our call center industry sector and we just have started up a health services industry sector.

And so, again, partnering, these programs would not be possible if it wasn’t for the employers and that’s a big part of the solution. I’ve always said if employers endorse and recognize the certificate program because they’ve been involved in determining the learning competencies and skills so they understand when someone presents that resume and has that on it exactly the skills they have, which some will deem as experience, and we can place that into our orientation and information sessions and allow our students to tour those facilities, if we build it they will come! But without that connection, it is sometimes very difficult for an individual to understand this investment will get them to where they need to be to support themselves and their family.

I want to close by talking about our pathways program, which has just been a wonderful experience for us at Kirkwood and we are so complimentary of our partnership with United Way because we would not be able to do this work without that support.

The pathways program is a program which is solely focusing on the targeted population that is low-income, has socioeconomic barriers as well as some life barriers to being able to be successful in college. So it’s a partnership between Kirkwood, United Way, community-based organizations and local employers. We are developing comprehensive career pathways that facilitate adults’ learning through a series of chunks of modules, curriculums or programs.

We know an individual looking at a two year degree can seem “oh there’s no way I can do that so I’m just not going to go to college,” but when you can chunk that out and show them okay let’s look at the first 16 weeks, here’s what you need to accomplish. When you accomplish that, here’s going to be the next step. But there’s a pathway navigator—an individual who’s working with this population—to navigate their educational journey. Pretty similar to the healthcare system and so we’ve taken some learnings from the healthcare systems and are applying it within our educational systems to help them navigate and move along that journey.

We are implementing some best practices. You may have heard of programs in Washington State and Kentucky and Arkansas, they’re getting a lot of play in the nation with regard to their work on integrated programs which take basic skills training and couple it with occupational credentialing training. So I’m basic skills deficient. I’m not at college level math or reading and probably not writing. So I’m going to need to spend my first semester at least in pre-college courses before I can move into my occupational courses. We have a bit of a loss during that first semester, because again they’re not seeing the connection to what awaits after that. So we’re merging those two together so individuals can receive a credential within their first phase with us at the institution. And then that also provides them more options because life happens and so if after that first phase they have a credential and they just can’t continue on to the next block, they wouldn’t been successful continuing onto the next block, they have a credential that is recognized in the community that will at least help them gain a higher wage than where they were before they came into the program.

We believe a unique attribute to that program is the pathway navigator roll, which I’ve explained. We are and want to work more closely with community-based organizations in this communication process of individuals community-based organizations are working with that we think education and training can assist them to move forward with their lives.

I’ve always said for this type of a program, Kirkwood Community College should not be the only organization involved in assisting populations move to higher levels of education and attainment and so we are very interested in working with other organizations to scale this up because there is a certain number you can handle through these programs and we’re finding even with our research on scaling, we’re going to hit a maximum point in terms of what we’re going to be able to handle through the Kirkwood pipeline.

This shows you graphically what that progression of certificates to credentials is. About 40 percent of our students in the pathway programs do not have a GED and 60 percent do. The math level is between eighth and ninth grade and a reading level is ninth to 11th grade. So in the first block it’s getting their basic skills, a credential, and if they don’t have their GED, a GED. From that sequence they then move into a college readiness boot-camp which occurs right before start of a semester to ensure they are engaged and aware of the resources within the community college system and getting some more math and reading prep. Then they are articulated into their first credit diploma, which right now we have programs that align in Allied Health, Advanced Manufacturing, which we’re focusing on welding, and our administrative office assistant or really customer service representative is another good field for there. So it is a pathway to higher wages.

And we have had success. I think I want to say our retention rate is about 87 percent so to continue them moving on through their progression our credentialing rate is higher than that and our employment rate is right around 75 percent so we want to move that up. But again the goal really is to keep them moving. We’d prefer they not exit to employment before they get their one-year credit diploma or two-year degree Lily has shown. You get more wage benefit at that time so that’s our overall goal. But as we say, life does happen and we want to be sure we can help them get a job if they decide they can’t continue on.

Just briefly some public policy work. So we’ve been working on GAP and PACE legislation and we continue to evaluate additional programs or resources that we might add into that program. One thing we’re looking at is some sort of middle skills internship program, our industry sector coalition work, and then access to public benefits. The number one reason students drop out is due to financial reasons. We have resources to fill a gap. Are we ensuring our students are connecting to the resources that are available to them while they are in our educational pathways? And that’s another area that pathway navigators have really focused on. And while we have funds available for childcare and support, they’ve done such a good job at connecting with other programs, we haven’t had to tap into those funds for that need as much.

Our regional education centers will be coming online, another way we are trying to move into kind of that junior/senior year of career preparation for workforce development. These are our new centers that will be coming online and I just love this picture and a student is a student because 70,000 futures have started at Kirkwood.

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