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Newton makes strides in Skilled Iowa

Published: Thursday, June 13, 2013 12:01 p.m. CST • Updated: Thursday, June 13, 2013 12:02 p.m. CST

Newton is making significant strides toward becoming a Skilled Iowa Community, but according to Iowa Workforce Development’s own metrics, the city’s businesses still have goals to meet.

According to Kerry Koonce, communications director of Iowa Workforce Development, Newton has exceeded one of the four goals set to determine how Iowa’s communities are certifying their workforces.

Twenty-eight percent of Newton’s businesses, based upon employment, have their entire business’s workforce certified with the National Career Readiness Certificate.

“There’s a lot of opportunity happening in Newton,” Koonce said. “There’s a lot of growth happening there.”

Newton’s businesses have yet to meet the other three goals. Based upon the number of businesses and not those business’s workforces, 6.71 percent of Newton’s businesses have become NCRC certified. Less than one percent of Newton’s entire workforce has been certified and 13 percent of Newton’s unemployed workforce has become certified.

“They were meant to be goals that are attainable but not easy,” Koonce said.

Koonce said that the hardest metric for communities to meet is getting five percent of their total workforce certified. Statewide, .83 percent of Iowa’s workforce has been certified.

Frank Liebl, executive director of the Newton Development Corporation, said that part of the progress of the program stems from educating businesses and members of the workforce the value of the NCRC.

“I think the biggest problem right now is making people understand what this whole program is about,” Liebl said. “This initiative that the governor has pushed in the last year, year and a half is to help employers learn what skills we need to help our major employers or all our employers.”

The Newton Development Corporation and the Greater Newton Area Chamber of Commerce have just begun their coloration efforts toward making Newton a Skilled Iowa community.

Darrell Sarmento, executive director of the Greater Newton Area Chamber of Commerce, said some one of the hurdles businesses face is finding time in their employees’ day to release them from work to take the test.

“The benefits are that really embracing Skilled Iowa and the NCRC test is that it gives one more criteria in the hiring process,” Sarmento said.

Sarmento said that he hopes business will start using the NCRC as part of their litmus test for new employees, much like they already do with résumés and cover letters.

Staff writer Dave Hon may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 425, or at dhon@newtondailynews.com.