From Senator Amanda Ragan of Mason City –We should do all that we can to help more workers and their families join Iowa’s middle class.
As 2015 comes to an end, Iowa continues its recovery from the national economic recession. We’re making steady progress, but many Iowans are still out of work or unable to find the jobs they want.
According to the Iowa Policy Project, the state is short about 35,000 jobs needed to keep up with the population growth we’ve seen in recent years. And when it comes to the jobs that are available, many Iowans don’t have the skills needed to fill them.
CNBC once again has put Iowa in the top 10 states for doing business this year for our low costs and quality of life, but they say our workforce development is lacking.
That’s why Senate Democrats continue to fight for education and training that prepares Iowans to fill skilled jobs—those that are currently available and the ones we want to attract. We support investments in job training, apprenticeships, high school completion, skills certification and credentials that will put more Iowans on the path to good jobs. To strengthen Iowa’s economy, these opportunities must be accessible to all who want to improve their prospects.
Skilled Workforce Shortage Tuition Grants are making a better future a reality for thousands of Iowans. Iowa residents preparing for in-demand jobs at our community colleges may be eligible for this need-based financial aid, which covers up to half of the average tuition and fees for two years.
A new report tells us how the Legislature’s $5 million investment in this grant program helped students during the 2014-15 school year. Among the highlights:
· 4,926 recipients were awarded all available funds.
· 52 percent of recipients were 25 years old or older, training for better-paying work.
· About 49 percent of the funds assisted students studying nursing and allied health, an area of particular need with Iowa’s aging population.
In other job training news, Iowa has been hailed as a national leader in creating more job opportunities for people with disabilities, the largest pool of untapped, work-ready individuals in the state, according to Iowa Workforce Development. Iowa has been awarded nearly $2.5 million in federal Disability Employment Initiative funds to further improve opportunities to compete for high-demand jobs and help close the skills gap.