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Workforce Readiness Priority for Iowans in 2023

Workforce Readiness Forum

May 5, 2023

During the 2023 Public Policy Issue Forum on Workforce Readiness, a panel discussed related policies in Iowa and learning options for students. The panel was led by moderator Jenae Sikkink with the Greater Des Moines Partnership.

Work-Based Learning Opportunities for the Future

Many students are looking for options to be paid on the job, while learning workforce skills and preparing for a successful career future. Registered apprenticeships and certifications allow students a solution. By learning the advantages of such pathways and educating parents on the benefits, more students are pursuing these opportunities. As apprenticeship becomes a recognizable option for young people to learn in an academic setting and on the job, they are uniquely set apart and able to achieve their long-term career goals.

Support for students who pursue these exciting pathways into the workforce are abundant. Future Ready Iowa administers the Last Dollar Scholarship, allowing a student to attend a community college in an occupational program. Iowa College Aid’s GEAR UP Iowa Future Ready project also supports high school students as they go through school and prepare for college. Avenue Scholars Des Moines assists students in finding quality careers within health care, IT, manufacturing and more. Work-based learning opportunities through WorkSMART Connector allow students to gain awareness of career opportunities, explore careers and connect with and become mentors who assist youth in their professional and personal development.

Bringing young people into the workplace also brings new insights and innovation to employers. Because of the unique skills and perspectives of apprentices, employers are creating new job roles as they recognize customer advantages and uncover talent that is essential to the future of work. Employers who help students balance a hybrid learning environment at both school and work benefit from apprentices as much as the students themselves.

Impacts of FASFA in Iowa

Apprenticeships and certifications often include classroom preparation for a student’s on-the-job placement. As with traditional college planning, students complete the Free Application for Student Federal Aid (FASFA) to determine eligibility for financial aid, including student loans, Pell Grants and other federal and state aid. Congress worked to make the application simpler, to alleviate barriers to students pursuing college credit. For example, when filling out the FASFA, applicants are notified of an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) toward their college expenses, which includes family assets. This EFC may prohibit college accessibility for those living on family farms. The State is challenging such negative outcomes to promote college affordability for students across Iowa.

The next Public Policy Issue Forum will be held on Thursday, June 15 at Noon. The event will focus on placemaking initiatives and their role in attracting and retaining talent in the region.

Watch the entire webinar below:


The Partnership's Public Policy team engages with local, state and federal officials to create public policy that generates economic growth, business prosperity and talent development in Greater Des Moines (DSM). The Partnership is a nonpartisan organization.

Teri Vos

Teri Vos is director of work-based learning for WorkSMART Connector, a collaboration of employers, educators and communities in Marion County that connects area talent to local careers in partnership with the Career Academy of Pella and Central College. Vos serves on Iowa Governor's STEM Advisory Council and others.