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Skilled Iowa program gaining ground

Iowa Workforce Development has been working hard over the past year to promote the Skilled Iowa program by providing workers with a National Career Readiness Certification. Gov. Terry Branstad visited Newton last year to inform many local businesses about the program.

So far, the program is reaching some of its goals since launching last year. 

One of the goals of the Skilled Iowa program was to get the unemployed working again. 

So far the program has about 4 percent, or 3,270 of the state’s business members, supporting the program. They hope to have 10 percent soon. 

One major area that Iowa Workforce Development hopes to improve is the employment numbers of NCRC holders. Their goal was 5 percent, but reports show that only .58 percent of NCRC holders are employed.

Iowa’s Employment metric numbers are looking better. 17.73 percent have signed up the program. They are looking to have 20 percent singed up.

“Iowa’s unemployment rate is the fourth lowest in the country,”  Iowa Workforce Development Communications Director Kerry Koonce said. “It is important that we  continue to work with the unemployed to get them certified to allow them to return to the workforce.”

Des Moines Community College has been working hard to accommodate the NCRC assessment test. They are working with Newton Senior High School to get students certified, but no date has been set.

“We are still pursuing the idea, but there is no set date.” Executive Director of DMACC Business Resources Kim Didier said. “Any Iowa resident can take the test as long as they register.” 

Many manufacturers are having trouble finding workers who have soft skills. Some examples of soft skills are: computer literacy, showing up on time, working well with others and following instructions.

The NCRC is made up of four levels of ranking assessment: bronze, silver, gold and platinum. The rank is taken from the overall score. Basic qualifications must be met on all subjects to get a bronze, silver, gold or platinum ranking. For example, if a test taker scores high on the reading portion, but score low on the math section; they may get a bronze ranking. Additional training is available online through a program called KeyTrain. Assessments can also be retaken.

The Skilled Iowa program helps those looking for work find it by targeting a job market that is continuing to see demand. The field is growing, and the jobs can pay a large amount compared to some other four-year programs. 

Many local businesses are interested in the program but are unsure what the program has to offer. 

“Many Chamber members are interested in what Skilled Iowa has to offer, but ultimately it will be HR departments in the businesses that decide,” Greater Newton Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Darrell Sarmento said. 

There is a 53-percent demand for middle skilled workers and only 33 percent of those jobs are filled. Middle-skilled demand is expected to rise, and the NCRC provides employers with an alternative.

Staff writer Matthew Shepard may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 425, or at

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