To help bridge the gap between Iowa’s job opportunities and qualified workers, Governor Kim Reynolds has proposed to spend roughly $18 million on Future Ready Iowa.
The initiative’s number one goal is to invest public dollars to ensure that 70 percent of Iowa workers have training or education beyond high school by 2025.
The initiative’s biggest expense is a scholarship program that would cover tuition and all mandatory fees at Iowa community colleges.
“We know we have that gap and we know we need to fill it,” said Linda Fandel, a special assistant for education in the governor’s office. “This initiative is also about creating the opportunity for more Iowans to have rewarding careers that allow them to support their families and see their families thrive.”
While Iowa’s unemployment rate is only at 2.9 percent, there are currently 50,000 advertised job openings on the Iowa Workforce Development website.
“This has got to meet employer needs first or it simply won’t work,” Fandel said. “They want to innovate and grow and they’re being held back and held up by the skilled workforce shortage.”
According to Fandel, Iowa businesses will be heavily relied on in the initiative.
“For years, we’ve all talked about the workforce issue we have. But what have been the solutions and what have we done to try to solve it and take action?” said Georgia Van Gundy, executive director of the Iowa Business Council. “This at least creates a statewide strategy and a synergy around the issue and allows you to outline some action items we can start working on.”
The proposal also includes a $500,000 expansion in work-based learning opportunities, a $1 million expansion of Iowa’s current apprenticeship program, the creation of an employer innovation fund to match private sector spending on training programs, and the creation of a new grant program for people who pursued a four-year degree but never finished.