Ragan Report

Training a Skilled Iowa workforce

Studies repeatedly find that employers are unable to find workers with the skills to fill job openings, education and training do not match workplace needs, and workers are not aware of programs that can train them in new skills. Remedying those problems is the most important thing we can go to strengthen Iowa's middle class and grow our economy.

Middle-skill jobs are on the rise and are expected to make up 62 percent of Iowa positions in four years. However, only about a third of Iowa workers qualify for them, according to a report on Middle-Skill Jobs in Iowa. Middle-skill jobs encompass a wide range of occupations, from computer specialists and radiation therapists to carpenters and machinists; positions that require some education beyond high school but not a four-year degree.

This year, we continued our work to expand training and apprenticeship programs that will prepare more workers to fill openings for good jobs in their communities.

We are keeping tuition affordable with a boost in funding for Iowa's community colleges, the first place many Iowans go to further their education, training and career opportunities. We are investing in internships so that Iowa students studying science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) can get hands-on experience in these growing fields. Also we are increasing the number of skilled workers by committing more than $40 million to job training efforts.

We are also improving and expanding apprenticeship programs, which provide supervised on-the-job training and technical classroom studies. Last year, Iowa had 662 apprenticeship programs, with more than 8,100 apprentices.

By investing in apprenticeships, we will make sure local employers have the skilled workers they need. Additionally, it is a good deal for trainees; they are paid to learn a skilled trade and earn a nationally recognized credential.

In addition to state support for apprenticeship programs, Iowa recently was awarded a $6.1 million federal grant that will place 1,500 Iowans in apprenticeship-based occupations in high-demand industries. 

Learn more about the opportunities apprenticeships provide Iowa workers at www.iowaworkforce.com/apprenticeship.

• Additional information

This is a legislative column by Senator Amanda Ragan, representing Franklin, Butler and Cerro Gordo counties. For newsletters, photos and further information, go to www.senate.iowa.gov/senator/ragan.

To contact Senator Ragan during the week, call the Senate Switchboard at 515-281-3371. Otherwise she can be reached at home at 641-424-0874. E-mail her at amanda.ragan@legis.iowa.gov.

Senator Ragan is an Assistant Senate Majority Leader, chair of the Human Resources Committee and vice-chair of the Health & Human Services Budget Subcommittee. She also serves on the Appropriations, Natural Resources & Environment, Rules & Administration and Veterans Affairs committees.