State Aims for 70 Percent of Workforce to have Postsecondary Education
Make no mistake, Iowa is a manufacturing state. Unsurprisingly, those manufacturers — like most nationwide — are ringing alarm bells about their rapidly-increasing need for skilled workers. They’re warnings Iowa is taking seriously, and causing the state’s leaders to set ambitious workforce education goals: Iowa needs to add more than 120,000 workers with postsecondary degrees or credentials by 2025.
Manufacturing contributes more to Iowa’s GDP than any other industry. Agricultural and construction equipment manufacturers like CNH Industrial, Deere & Company, Hagie, Kinze and Vermeer employ thousands of Iowans, and a host of smaller manufacturing and component part producers and companies down the supply chain employ thousands more.
For decades manufacturers have benefited from workers exiting Iowa’s strong public school system (the state holds the highest public graduation rate), high-quality workforce (#2 among states rated by Chief Executive Magazine) and low cost of doing business.
However, while Iowa has made significant strides integrating science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education into its grade school system, a grade school education alone will not suffice for most of Iowa’s future jobs. To fully understand the scope of the need, the state of Iowa commissioned a Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce study which found 68 percent of Iowa’s jobs will require some form of postsecondary education by 2025. This study influenced the state’s 70 percent goal, and it is being used as a roadmap to develop the state’s workforce policy.
A group called the Future Ready Iowa Alliance, which is co-chaired by Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds and Principal Financial President and CEO Dan Houston, is developing this policy. The Alliance members will be tasked with creating a strategy that reaches not only high school and college-aged individuals, but working adults.
It’s a challenge, but not an insurmountable one in a state where public and private organizations are accustomed to collaboration. For example, the state of Iowa already has a host of programs in place which help employers affordably train and hire employees from the state’s network of 15 community colleges.
With a 70 percent postsecondary education goal, Iowa’s leadership knows what its manufacturers need. With a public-private initiative in place, the state is purposefully moving forward. For more information on Iowa’s workforce education initiative, visit futurereadyiowa.gov. To learn more about Iowa’s additional business advantages, visit iowaeconomicdevelopment.com.
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