Under the Golden Dome, Too – Growing a 21st Century Workforce

UTGD

Earlier this week we celebrated Veteran’s Day to honor those who served in our nation’s armed forces. I’d like to take the time at the beginning of this newsletter to thank them for their service, sacrifice, and dedication to this country. Without the brave men and women of our armed forces, past and present, I wouldn’t be able to represent the 30,000 citizens of District 54 in the Iowa House. Our soldiers and veterans have fought to ensure that all Americans remain free and that our democracy stands.

I’ve had the opportunity to talk with many Iowans over recent weeks. The topics of education, career readiness and workforce needs have come up frequently. While the Legislature has taken steps over the past few years to solve some of these issues, there is still work to be done.

The state’s unemployment rate of 3.6% is at its lowest point in nearly a decade, our rate remains significantly lower than the national rate, and more Iowans than ever are working. However, the more that I talk to employers and business owners across the state, the more I hear about a shortage of employees with a particular skill set. While Iowa has a good supply of highly skilled workers, it lacks those with middle-level skills.

Iowa Workforce Development estimates that 56% of all jobs in the state are considered middle-skill, compared to 12% that are low-skill and 32% that are high-skill. Unfortunately, only a third of Iowa workers have the necessary skills to fill those jobs.

In 2012 Governor Branstad launched the Skilled Iowa Initiative aimed at identifying the skills workers have, and helping them gain the skills that they need for 21st century jobs. Skilled Iowa encourages workers to take an assessment which tests basic skills needed in the workplace such as:

  • Problem solving
  • Critical thinking
  • Applied mathematics
  • Locating information
  • And reading for information

Upon completing the assessment, individuals earn a National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC) in one of four levels based on their score. Job seekers are then matched up with training to help them develop the skills that they need to improve upon and be successful in trades or other areas. The NCRC also helps employers identify which workers meet their job needs, and connects the two. Programs like Skilled Iowa help prepare our workforce to compete in the 21st century economy.

House Republicans have worked over the years to create an environment that produces quality, high-paying jobs that workers can raise a family on. Middle-skill jobs pay good wages while also offering a greater opportunity for upward mobility. I am committed to continuing to work on this with our community colleges, trade associations, and job training programs so that more Iowans can take advantage of the career opportunities that are out there.

These efforts will spur economic growth in the state, as businesses looking to relocate or expand will find a ready workforce. This is a great way to grow opportunities for middle class families, while at the same time making us even more competitive with surrounding states.

As always, feel free to send me comments, questions, or feedback that you may have regarding issues before us in the House. I can be reached at linda.upmeyer@legis.iowa.gov or (515) 281-4618.

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