Success stories show how to fix skilled worker shortage
Iowans who used innovative pilot programs to recover from lost jobs and qualify to fill existing job openings visited the Statehouse to tell legislators how they did it with the help of new community college programs. Their stories make the case for investing more in helping Iowans gain the skills that businesses need to grow and create jobs.
We ought to expand community college offerings to include classes for recognized certificates, professional licenses and registered apprenticeships alongside classes for academic credit. Helping Iowans improve their skills, starting with basic adult literacy and GED programs, can lead to big results for families and for the Iowa economy. That’s why Democratic and Republican legislators both generally support workforce training.
One of the Iowans who visited the Statehouse was Mike Sevart of Cedar Rapids. He lost his job of 32 years when his employer closed. He enrolled in the combination welding program at Kirkwood Community College while earning an Adult High School Diploma, and was hired by a local manufacturing firm shortly after receiving his diploma.
“The state offered me the chance to become a welder, and I took it,” said Sevart. “I’m proof that after 32 years of doing the same job, you can learn new tricks given the chance. I’m back earning a paycheck, paying taxes, and I support helping other Iowans learn the skills they need to get hired.”
GAP, the Gap Assistance Program, “fills the GAP” by funding non-credit programs to earn recognized certificates and professional licenses, classes that don’t qualify for federal student financial aid. PACE, the Pathways for Academic Career and Employment, coordinates efforts to help returning students and identifies local job openings.
Given the proven success of this approach and the obvious demand for skilled workers, we ought to act on what we’ve learned and take these programs statewide. Senate President Jack Kibbie is working on creating a new $20 million workforce fund (Senate File 2024), which would closely coordinate local workforce training with proven local business needs.
This is a legislative update from Senator Gene Fraise, representing Henry and Lee counties. For newsletters, photos and further information, go to www.senate.iowa.gov/fraise.
To contact Senator Fraise during the week, call the Senate Switchboard at 515-281-3371. Otherwise he can be reached at home at 319-528-6176. E-mail him at email@example.com.
Senator Fraise is chair of the Judiciary Committee and vice-chair of the Agriculture Committee. He also serves on the Appropriations, Labor, Ethics and State Government committees, as well as the Justice Systems Budget.