SUNDAY TALK: Upmeyer on Closing the Skills Gap

It’s County Fair season in Iowa, folks!  I’m looking forward to both the Franklin County Fair and the North Iowa Fair next week.  Make sure that you get out and support your local county fairs!

Iowa’s job market is one of the healthiest in the entire country.  The state’s unemployment rate of 2.7% is at its lowest point in nearly two decades and the third lowest in the nation.  And wages in Iowa continue to grow quicker than other states, ranking 8th best nationally.  This is all wonderful news!

However, according to Workforce Development data, Iowa employers currently have more than 60,000 job openings that they are struggling to fill.  This is the result of a skills shortage in the state, largely due to a lack of middle-skill workers individuals with a high school diploma but no post-secondary degree or skill certification.

This past session, we put a focus on our workforce to ensure that Iowans can gain the skills necessary for 21st century career opportunities.

In Governor Reynolds’ Condition of the State address, she proposed the Future Ready Iowa Act to address this skills shortage and ensure that Iowans have access to high quality job training programs.  Both parties worked closely with our K-12 schools, community colleges, Workforce Development officials, and business and trade leaders to craft a plan of action that will help us achieve our goal for 70% of Iowa workers to attain education or training beyond high school by 2025.  This is a lofty goal, but Future Ready Iowa will put programs in place that can get us there, much of which can happen in our high schools.

Future Ready Iowa will more closely connect our K-12 schools with community colleges and local businesses to develop a workforce talent pipeline that meets the needs of Iowa employers.  They will do this by partnering together to provide students with high quality, work-based learning opportunities that can translate into careers after graduation.

When I talk with Iowans about what they’d like to see from our K-12 system, they often mention that they wish schools would put more of an emphasis on trades and vocational education.  Future Ready Iowa will offer these exact types of opportunities to students.

Many people think that the only path to a good-paying career is to go to a four year university, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.  There are several high-demand professions out there that only require two years of training and offer great wages, but our young people are unaware of these careers.  Future Ready Iowa will ensure that students, as young as middle school age, will be able to explore these opportunities and gain valuable experience before they graduate from high school.

I am really excited to see what Future Ready Iowa will help us accomplish here in the state.  This is a great plan put together by folks on the ground and in the trenches to address one of Iowa’s biggest challenges.  I am confident that this will help us tackle the skills shortage and ensure Iowans are prepared to meet the needs of a modern economy.

For more information about Future Ready Iowa and to see what the most in-demand jobs in Iowa are, visit www.FutureReadyIowa.gov.

Over the coming months, I’m looking forward to hearing from Iowans in the district and across the state to learn more about their priorities.  In the meantime, I can be reached by email at Linda.Upmeyer@legis.iowa.gov or phone at (515) 281-35210.