The Iowa Skills2Compete Coalition is a statewide partnership of Iowa’s business, community, education, legislative, and workforce development leaders that serve as an organized voice for “skills” at the state’s capital and build more policymaker support for state policies that grow Iowa’s economy by investing in its workforce.
The Coalition applauds the smart investments in the state’s workforce to meet the demand for skilled workers that Iowa’s policymakers have made over the last two years. Funding for community colleges has increased by almost 8 percent, although it still falls short of pre-recession levels. The state legislature also passed legislation to create three new programs that address the skills gap and help more adult workers access the necessary education and training required by jobs in today’s labor market. The Pathways for Academic Career and Employment Act enables community colleges to develop bridge programs to help adults with limited academic or English skills build basic skills and prepare for credit-bearing postsecondary education programs. The GAP Tuition Assistance Program supports students enrolled in non-credit certificate programs, the cost of which is not covered by federal financial aid, and yet offers the opportunity to earn certificates necessary to qualify for many middle-skill jobs. The Skilled Workforce Shortage Tuition Grant Program helps students who are seeking education and training for jobs in industries experiencing acute shortages of skilled workers.
Most recently, the Governor announced his Skilled Iowa Initiative which seeks to help more Iowans earn the National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC) and encourage more employers to consider and hire workers who have earned this credential. The Skilled Iowa Initiative is designed to improve the job training and marketability of Iowa’s workforce and drive future economic growth for the state. Similar initiatives throughout the country have changed the landscape of local economies through programs that incorporate this nationally recognized assessment system. The assessment was designed to measure individual workers’ skills in the areas of applied mathematics, reading for information and locating information. The Iowa Skills2Compete Coalition recognizes that the Skilled Iowa Initiative contains important components of engaging employers in the state’s strategies and helping more Iowans learn the skill sets required for the labor market.
The Iowa Skills2Compete Coalition offers these policy recommendations to complement and accelerate the steps Iowa’s policymakers have already taken for the state’s industries and workers:
- Appropriate $5 million in state revenue for adult basic education and integrated learning programs, which combine literacy skill development with job training, to help more low-skill adult workers get on a path toward earning postsecondary credentials and having the necessary skills for employment.
- Invest in the use of pathway navigators at a level of $2 million to ensure adult learners enrolled in career pathways programs complete these programs and earn skilled credentials.
- Create capacity within existing postsecondary education and job training funding to develop regional industry sector partnerships around the state.
-Ensure Iowa’s education and workforce development system has the capacity to evaluate the impact of its initiatives and programs on closing skill gaps in key industries and counting numbers of credentials earned by workers through these efforts. (author abstract)