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Fri, August 29, 2014

Commentary: Training A Skilled Workforce

By Iowa Senator Bill Dotzler

Studies repeatedly find that employers are unable to find workers with the skills to fill job openings, education and training don't 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're 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're investing in internships so that Iowa students studying science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) can get hands-on experience in these growing fields.  And we're 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.  Plus, it’s 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.

The preceding is a legislative update from Senator Bill Dotzler, representing Waterloo, Evansdale, Elk Run Heights and Gilbertville in southeast Black Hawk County.  For newsletters, photos and further information, go to www.senate.iowa.gov/senator/dotzler.

To contact Senator Dotzler during the week, call the Senate Switchboard at 515-281-3371.  Otherwise he can be reached at home at 319-296-2947.  E-mail him at bill.dotzler@legis.iowa.gov.



Senator Dotzler is an Assistant Majority Leader and chair of the Economic Development Budget Subcommittee. He also serves on the Appropriations, Economic Growth, Human Resources, Labor & Business, and Ways & Means committees.

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