By Teresa Wahlert
August 15, 2013
The first year of Gov. Branstad's Skilled Iowa initiative has been a great success. Significant strides have been made to help address Iowa's middle skills job gap by upskilling Iowans and ensuring that job seekers and students have the tools needed for the careers of tomorrow.
Middle-skilled workers fill a vast majority of employment openings across the state. The recent Des Moines Register article ("Workers, Skills Still a Mismatch," July 31) misunderstood key components presented in the 2013 middle skills job report. The report is available at tinyurl.com/mkvsxle.
The business community in Iowa is speaking loudly that there is a standard of skill proficiency that they seek in our existing and future labor force.
The good news is that over 27,000 Iowans have earned a credentialed certificate. Additionally, over 6,700 Iowa employers representing over 25 percent of employment opportunities acknowledge the National Career Readiness Certificate as desirable by being a Skilled Iowa member business.
The NCRC certification is being administered across the state at no cost to job seekers, workers and students. The certification measures proficiency in applied mathematics, reading for information and locating information. These three areas of critical thinking are what employers in every industry are looking for as they make hiring decisions. These same skills are key to careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Since the launch of the Skilled Iowa initiative, unemployment has fallen to 4.6 percent, fifth-lowest in the United States, and businesses are looking for qualified people to fill openings in our communities.
Many leading businesses and private individuals have contributed with time, talent and monetary resources to help market this public/private partnership and promote this initiative so Iowa can compete locally and globally. A key economic development component of the initiative is to develop Skilled Iowa communities. This allows any region of the state to brand itself and demonstrate to decision-makers who are considering locating or expanding businesses here that the labor force has the skills to get the job done.
To date, there are 40 communities utilizing the metrics to become designated a Skilled Iowa community.
By working with economic and community leaders, school officials, business leaders and the public, an enhanced awareness regarding Iowa's world-class opportunities is occurring.
Public/private partnerships such as the Skilled Iowa initiative are critical to Iowa's continued success in the global economy today and into the future. Our workforce of tomorrow will compete for jobs in careers that have not necessarily been identified or understood today.
It is incumbent upon workforce and education leaders to identify the key skills necessary to compete with the jobs of tomorrow.
As part of this collaborative effort, Iowa Workforce Development has ensured that every public high school in the state has access to the tools and capacity to certify students, allowing them to earn a credential before graduation at no cost.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
TERESA WAHLERT is the director of Iowa Workforce Development.