MASON CITY – Iowa Business Growth (IBG) and North Iowa Area Community College (NIACC) have created a new partnership to help educate and train people to become the skilled workers needed by Iowa businesses.
Project Lead Forward is a public-private partnership designed by IBG and NIACC to help relieve the shortage of skilled workers in Iowa, especially in rural areas of Iowa. Iowa business leaders face a shortage of skilled worker to meet the demands of business and industry.
Iowa Business Growth Company, located in Johnston, works with small businesses throughout Iowa that need an alternate financing structure that complements what a traditional bank can offer. IBG works with the customers’ bank to determine which product best fits the customer’s needs. Products offered are the SBA 504 Loan, SBA 7(a) Loan Packaging or Wellmark Mezzanine Fund.
As a result of a request by IBG, the NIACC John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center provided a list of strategies to the IBG board of directors in September, 2012. Through an iterative process the board narrowed the ideas and asked NIACC to provide a specific proposal to address the labor shortage of skilled applicants at many North Iowa businesses. The results of the proposal is a comprehensive three tiered project aimed at increasing the numbers of skilled workers ready to be hired by North Iowa businesses.
The funding is $115,000 for year one, with a possibility of the same for year two.
This partnership is thought to be a first of its kind in its breadth and is certainly a first for IBG. It is expected that this project will be successful leading to a second year of funding with an ultimate goal of self-sustainability by the second year of the program and a successful model that can be replicated elsewhere in Iowa.
How it Works
The project has three tiers with the goal of enrolling 20 individuals in each tier with the ultimate goal of placing participants in jobs when they complete the program.
• Tier 1 focuses on basic reading, writing, math and computer skills. This is accomplished through the existing NIACC Smart Start program and will be used to recruit and assist individuals to build basic skills. These individuals may include non-native speakers, dislocated workers, underemployed workers and non-traditional students. Each participant will be assessed to determine their entry skill level and to provide appropriate skill development to prepare them for a successful transition to college and into workforce readiness programs.
• Tier 2 is designed to take participants with entry level skills or those who have achieved the training in Tier 1 into certificate programs to prepare them for the workplace. This could include training in welding, truck driving, basic office skills or other options. Students in the second tier will complete the National Career Readiness Certification (NCRC) process and begin internships or participate in cooperative work experiences. The goal is to introduce participants to potential employers early and to help them develop a relationship leading to employment.
• Tier 3 is for students to study in a credit-based program related to a high-demand, skilled work area, such as tool and die, welding, automotive technology or other similar programs, coupled with training in LEAN Manufacturing principles. In this phase, the program works closely with business partners, as the instructors will not train the students unless there are assurances of jobs available. This part of the plan incorporates private, federal and state funds. Iowa Business Growth is providing the seed money to get this launched.
Daniel T. Robeson, President of IBG said, “IBG’s mission is to help stimulate the economy in Iowa through our lending activities. Our goal is to provide Iowans with increased employment opportunities through the projects we help finance. Our partnership with NIACC is a departure from our normal approach of helping businesses create jobs to a position where we are helping individuals improve their employment potential for current jobs. This is just another approach for IBG to achieve our mission to improve the quality of life in Iowa through a strong economy”.
NIACC Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs, Dr. Lyn Brodersen said, “We are thrilled to have the opportunity to partner with IBG to address the challenges being faced by our North Iowa businesses. We are grateful for their confidence in NIACC and will work together to address the worker shortages through their financial support and expertise. We are confident of this program’s success.”