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Opinion

The importance of the Iowa Skilled Worker & Job Creation fund

As Iowa moves forward to implement Governor Reynolds’ Future Ready Iowa (FRI) initiative, Iowa’s community colleges stand ready to play a key role. The goal is to prepare 70 percent of Iowa’s workforce with an education or training beyond high school by the year 2025. The FRI recommendations will focus on low-income Iowans, underrepresented minorities, and high school students and adults who seek effective training for high-demand jobs.

Iowa’s community colleges were successful during the 2013 legislative session to secure support for workforce job training programs with the establishment of the Iowa Skilled Worker and Job Creation Fund. This fund contains program components that provide tools for community colleges to collaborate at the local level with businesses, industries and K-12 stakeholders to address critical workforce needs. The Iowa Skilled Worker and Job Creation Fund has consistently targeted Iowa’s low-skilled adult populations and its youth to achieve high skilled workforce training necessary for Iowans to compete in the global economy. Its components include:

• Workforce Training & Economic Development Fund (WTED) — Provides support for specific training programs in targeted industries designed to help companies train existing and future workers in their communities.

• Adult Basic Education & Adult Literacy Programs (ABE, ELL) — Assists adults and students (16 years and older) in obtaining a high school equivalency diploma and/or English as a Second Language instruction to obtain the knowledge and skills necessary for further education, work and community involvement.

• Pathways for Academic Career & Employment Program (PACE) — Provides target populations with effective academic and employment training administered by college pathway navigators to ensure gainful employment and customized support services.

• GAP Tuition Assistance Program (GAP) — Provides needs-based tuition to cover the “gap” in financial assistance for Iowans earning incomes at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level guidelines who enroll in non-credit or certificate programs for high-demand jobs.

• Work-Based Learning Intermediary Network Program — Prepares area high school and middle school students for the workforce by connecting businesses with the education community and offering relevant, work-based learning activities (internships, job shadow experiences, workforce tours) to students and teachers.

The Iowa Skilled Worker and Job Creation Fund has provided community colleges with the tools to provide Iowans access to education and customized training beyond high school. It is a training model aligned with the skills critical to the needs of the local economy.

Cindy Schulte is the Director of
Governmental Relations for Iowa Valley Community College District.

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