TRAINING A SKILLED IOWA WORKFORCE
Studies repeatedly find that employers are unable to find workers with the skills to fill job openings, education and training do not match workplace needs, and workers are not aware of programs that can train them in new skills. Remedying those problems is the most important thing we can go to strengthen Iowa’s middle class and grow our economy.
Middle-skill jobs are on the rise and are expected to make up 62 percent of Iowa positions in four years. However, only about a third of Iowa workers qualify for them, according to a 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 machinist; positions that require some education beyond high school but not a four-year degree.
This year, we continued our work to expand training and apprenticeship programs that will prepare more workers to fill openings for good jobs in their communities.
We are keeping tuition affordable with a boost in funding for Iowa’s community colleges, the first place many Iowans go to further their education, training and career opportunities. We are investing in internships so that Iowa students studying science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) can get hands-on experience in these growing fields. Also we are increasing the number of skilled workers by committing more than $40 million to job training efforts.
We are also improving and expanding apprenticeship programs, which provide supervised on-the-job training and technical classroom studies. Last year, Iowa had 662 apprenticeship programs, with more than 8,100 apprentices. By investing in apprenticeships, we will make sure local employers have the skilled workers they need. Further, it is a good deal for trainees; they are paid to learn a skilled trade and earn a nationally recognized credential.
In addition to state support for apprenticeship programs, Iowa recently was awarded a $6.1 million federal grant that will place 1,500 Iowans in apprenticeship-based occupations in high-demand industries.
Learn more about the opportunities apprenticeships provide Iowa workers at www.iowaworkforce.com/apprenticeship.
AFFORDABLE HIGHER EDUCATION STRENGTHENS MIDDLE CLASS
A new school year is getting under way at Iowa’s colleges and universities. Students are gaining the knowledge and skills necessary to improve their lives and communities. Keeping their tuition affordable is an important part of our efforts to expand Iowa’s middle class because all Iowans who want to further their education should be able to do it.
Private colleges and universities: Almost half of bachelor’s degrees awarded in Iowa come from our private colleges and universities. A boost in the Iowa Tuition Grant will ensure more of these students can afford the education that is right for them. To qualify, a student must be an Iowa resident, attend an independent, non-profit college or university, and demonstrate financial need. Last year, nearly 15,000 students received the grant, which is matched by their school. This includes 931 students in Dubuque County, who were awarded almost $3 million in Iowa Tuition Grants.
State universities: During the 2014 session, we provided the funding necessary to freeze tuition at the University of Iowa, Iowa State and the University of Northern Iowa for the second straight year. I believe we work for a third consecutive tuition freeze. About 63 percent of Iowa’s state university graduates in 2013 had student loan debt, averaging $28,293 per student, according to the Iowa College Student Aid Commission. The Iowa Policy Project, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Federal Reserve and numerous other groups warn that rising student loan debt is bad for our economy.
Community colleges: This year, we increased support for Iowa’s 15 community colleges by $8 million. Their role in education and job training is growing, as they work closely with local businesses to reduce Iowa’s shortage of skilled workers. Almost all community college students are Iowans who plan to stay in the state when they graduate. Statewide enrollment for fall of 2013 was 94,234. Northeast Iowa Community College had 5,201 students, from recent high school grads earning their first college credits to family breadwinners learning new skills for better jobs.
Affordable tuition for those willing to study hard and work hard is a smart approach to strengthening Iowa’s middle class, keeping our workforce competitive and building a high-skill, high-wage economy in our state. For more on grants, scholarships and other help to pay for college, go to www.iowacollegeaid.gov.