With school back in session, more students are enrolling in—or are being encouraged to consider—new vocational and technical training programs to fill the gap of “middle skills” jobs in Iowa. According to a 2015 Iowa Workforce Development report, over half of state jobs demand middle-skilled workers, but merely one-third of Iowa workers are considered equipped for those jobs. State officials and industry leaders have been pushing new school programs following the Future Ready Iowa initiative, which aims to have 70 percent of Iowa’s workforce trained past high school by 2025.
Currently, Iowa schools and businesses are forging partnerships to build or grow technical training programs, such as the Skilled Trades Academy in Des Moines and the pre-apprenticeship program in Boone, according to the Des Moines Register. Iowa’s construction industry is particularly susceptible to the skilled labor gap with approaching retirements and hiring needs, but this gap can be felt across industries. Approximately one out of five small business owners said that the lack of qualified workers was their biggest concern in the latest NFIB Small Business Economic Trends survey. More than half of small business owners said that there were either few or no qualified workers applying for positions that they needed to fill, according to NFIB.
The push for more vocational and technical training follows Iowa’s 2016 law that requires schools partner with businesses or industry officials to remodel technical programs to meet the marketplace’s demands.