Gov. Kim Reynolds is proposing a plan to invest $18 million in workforce training across the state. This comes after Iowa’s unemployment rate was reported at 2.9 percent for November 2017, the lowest in 17 years. Yet there is a critical need for the funding, demonstrated by the mismatch of Iowa’s qualified workers to available jobs.
Iowa’s job boards reveal approximately 50,000 open positions statewide, and anecdotal concern from employers indicate a shortage of qualified workers. There simply aren’t enough skilled Iowans to fill the positions available. Furthermore, the number of skilled positions are projected to grow.
The solution embraced by the Reynolds administration is an enhancement of workforce training and implementation of the Future Ready Iowa Act, an initiative that aims to ensure 70 percent of Iowans will have post-secondary training by 2025.
Linda Fandel is the special assistant for education in the governor’s office. "We know we have that gap and we know we need to fill it," she said of the motivation behind Future Ready Iowa. "This initiative is also about creating the opportunity for more Iowans to have rewarding careers that allow them to support their families and see their families thrive."
Rough estimates indicate the Reynolds administration will seek the $18 million by fiscal year 2020, launching the program with a requested $2.6 million in fiscal year 2019. The funding will enhance work-based opportunities for Iowa’s Registered Apprenticeship Program, student grant programs and scholarships to fill funding gaps in education that prove to be a major barrier to Iowans obtaining training. Additionally, it will also be used to partially fund an Employer Innovation Fund matching program with key partners in the private sector.
The Future Ready Iowa Act will rely on business partnerships across the state. "This has got to meet employer needs first or it simply won't work," Fandel said. "They want to innovate and grow and they're being held back and held up by the skilled workforce shortage."