Iowa is Future Focused

Iowa attracts talent from across the country, but some of its best is homegrown.

By
Tim Carty
On Monday, January 4, 2021 - 16:06
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Though opportunities in Iowa draw talent from outside its borders, there's a heavy emphasis on the development of homegrown talent through the state's standout universities, top-ranked K-12 education systems and apprenticeship programs.

Iowa high school students don't spend a lot of time wondering what they want to be when they grow up because they're too busy living and learning it daily, on job sites and in the classroom.

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West Delaware County Community School District

The Future is Now

When it comes to investing in the future, the state of Iowa is stepping up in some big ways. Gov. Kim Reynolds has committed $16 million in additional funding for the Future Ready Iowa initiative, which provides Iowans with the post-secondary education and training required for high demand jobs. Future Ready Iowa's goal is to ensure that 70% of the state's workforce has education or training beyond high school by 2025.

This post-secondary education doesn't necessarily mean that students need to attend a four-year college or university. Those options certainly exist, and Iowa students' high ACT and SAT scores reflect that many students are college-ready.

But as the workforce and economy have evolved, Iowa's plan for the future recognizes that not all students' paths to success include a four-year college. As such, Future Ready Iowa places a heavy emphasis on the value of registered apprenticeships through state and federal programs.

Opportunities Equal More Engagement 

The commitment to readying students for the workforce begins early, with educational leaders throughout the state giving students access to hands-on experiences that can shape their future.

Youth apprenticeships are available for nearly 200 careers through Future Ready Iowa, including computer programmer, IT specialist, medical assistant and pharmacy technician. Students are required to acquire certain proficiencies in the earn-and-learn model by logging up to 2,600 hours of on-the-job work.

"Our goal is to give students opportunities," says Dr. Kristen Rickey, superintendent, West Delaware County Community School District in Manchester. "Some find a career. Some use it as a launch point to another career. This is a great learning experience, no matter what they choose to do in the future."

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Tim Felderman/West Delaware County Community School District

It's a Real Job

These students get more than just an experience. They get bosses, paychecks, and the responsibility that comes with being an employee. It's hands-on learning that leads to full-time careers.

"It gives the students the opportunity to try something, learn it, decide whether or not they want to pursue it and move forward either way," says Jason Guyer, West Delaware's auto tech instructor. "Students don't waste time postgraduation trying a job that they learn that they don't like."

Welding instructor Seth Harms has seen the effects of these engaging learning experiences firsthand.

"Attendance is better at school," he says. "Engagement is better. Motivation is better. They're learning that what they're learning in school is applicable to their career. And if students don't come to school, they can't go to work. The apprenticeships are helping bridge the gap between being a youth and being a professional."

Even better, the skills that they learn reach far beyond what may be considered a traditional classroom.

"Future Ready Iowa and the apprenticeships require skills-based competencies and behavior-based competencies," Rickey says. "Students are entering the workforce, ready to work and contribute."

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Photo by Justin A. Torner/The Univeristy of Iowa

Impact on Communities 

In Manchester, which is home to more than 5,000 residents, it's vital to the community's success for students to stay local upon graduation.

"We're all working toward a common goal," says Tim Felderman, West Delaware High School principal. "Future Ready Iowa has given us a launching platform. Our school community and our business community are working toward the goal of 70% post-secondary study, but, equally as important, keeping our students as engaged contributors to our city."

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Kirk S. Murray/The Univeristy of Iowa

Iowa Wants You

You served your country, now Iowa wants to serve you.

Home Base Iowa is a statewide program that helps veterans and transitioning service members find employment and career opportunities in Iowa. More than 2,400 businesses across the state participate in the program, which is also open to veterans' spouses.

Participating businesses may post openings on the homebaseiowa.gov website to recruit veteran job seekers. Veterans and their spouses may also upload their resumes, allowing businesses to search for a potential match to suit their needs. Beyond the job connections that Home Base Iowa helps facilitate, the program also ensures that transitioning service members have the skills and education needed to succeed in civilian life.

"We also partner with 27 colleges and universities throughout Iowa to provide education training opportunities to those former service members who want to increase their training in various fields," says Jonathan Chicoine, Home Base Iowa program manager and a U.S. Navy veteran.

More Than 100 Iowa Communities Support the Mission

Chicoine says the list of businesses seeking veteran employees runs the gamut, with openings in sectors such as IT, construction, education, engineering, farming, health care, transportation, manufacturing and more. Companies in Iowa seeking veterans range from small businesses to large corporations like Allstate, BNSF, Cargill and U.S. Bank.

Chicoine adds that the 2,400 businesses involved with Home Base Iowa have pledged to hire more than 16,000 veterans in total ultimately.

"Home Base Iowa also helps veterans transition easier into new hometowns when locating to any of the 106 communities involved in the program," Chicoine says. "Many communities are developing additional ideas to attract veterans, including attractive first-time homebuyer incentives."

If you'd like to learn more about Iowa, check out the latest edition of This is Iowa

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

I’m not a native Iowan and I hate myself for it. I guess it’s not my fault, but I’ve been an Iowan for twenty years and I’m trying to make up for the lost time.