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What You Need to Know About Future Ready Iowa

Future Ready Iowa

June 13, 2018

We know Iowa is a fantastic place to live. Just look at our recent U.S. News and World Report ranking. While we have much to celebrate, at the same time Iowa is facing a workforce crisis. Employers across the state routinely share how difficult it is to find and hire enough skilled workers. The Future Ready Iowa Initiative was launched to address this critical issue. The goal is to have 70 percent of Iowa’s workforce aged 25 – 64 obtain education or training beyond high school by 2025. This scenario is a win-win for everyone and can be accomplished through cross-sector collaboration across the state.

The initiative complements the work Capital Crossroads is doing under the leader of the Greater Des Moines Partnership with its Education Drives our Greater Economy (EDGE) initiative. Like Future Ready Iowa, it aims to improve education attainment from early childhood learning through life-long learning ensuring that 75 percent of Greater Des Moines (DSM) working-age adults have postsecondary degrees, certificates or other credentials by 2025 that align with workforce needs.

A bipartisan goal

Through both efforts, more Iowans will have rewarding careers in high-demand fields and employers will be able to hire the skilled workers they need. The result will be an even better quality of life in communities across Iowa. This spring, the Iowa Legislature unanimously passed the Future Ready Iowa Act and many exciting efforts aligned with its goal are already taking place throughout the state.

The Future Ready Iowa Act contains language and funding to kick the work recommended by the Future Ready Alliance. This includes:

  • Expanding Registered Apprenticeship opportunities for small to mid-size businesses as well as high schools and community colleges. In fact, a newly launched website makes it even easier for employers to set up a Registered Apprenticeship in their area and connect individuals with opportunities to earn while they earn.
  • Grant opportunities to begin summer youth internship pilot projects focused on engaging youth at risk of not graduating from high school to explore and prepare for high-demand careers through work experiences.
  • Funding for summer joint enrollment programs that will make it possible for students to earn dual high school and college credit in summer courses related to high-demand fields. 
  • Creation of a Virtual Clearinghouse for quality work-based learning. This will enhance opportunities to connect K-12 classrooms and businesses supporting hands-on learning and development of 21st Century skills and the workforce.
  • Creation of a state list of high-demand jobs by the Iowa Workforce Development Board and community colleges. Jobs listed will have a high number of annual openings and/or a high percentage of future growth; the list will be updated every two years.

In addition to the legislation there are many unique, innovative efforts happening all across the state already and we want this work to continue. Business leadership and engagement is critical to success. Start sharing the message that the new paradigm is for everyone to obtain education and training beyond high school. Jobs now and in the future will require this and Iowa has so many great post-secondary career paths. There is something for everyone!

How to get involved

There are numerous ways to be involved in Future Ready Iowa and we need you! Consider encouraging and supporting your own employees with high school diplomas or equivalencies to advance to this new minimum. Re-think hiring practices that create barriers for those skilled Iowans who face their own set of challenges because they represent a large pool of untapped talent. Make a commitment to educate yourself on the future of work.

We all have a role to play in achieving Future Ready Iowa’s 70 percent goal. It will take the commitment of a shared vision among leaders in business, education, workforce, government and community. It will take an understanding of the skills gap facing our state, but more importantly, an understanding of how we can address it. It will take Iowans pursuing the high demand jobs that will allow them to earn bigger paychecks. And it will take employers working in new and different ways to fill open positions.

If you are a business leader interested in getting your organization more involved in achieving Future Ready Iowa’s vision for a state where every job is filled and every worker is fulfilled, please email me if you have questions, want to learn more or just want to start with coffee.

Job opportunities and career resources are abundant in Greater Des Moines (DSM). Whether you're looking to find an internshipa jobdevelop professionally or grow as a student, we have the resources to help you thrive.

Kathy Leggett

Kathy Leggett began her role as Future Ready Iowa policy adviser in January 2018 bringing 20 years of experience in statewide leadership, project management, collaboration and advocacy work. She coordinates leaders from business, education, government, workforce and the community to align with a vision for an Iowa where every job is filled and every worker is fulfilled.