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- Skills Mismatch
With the support of National Fund for Workforce Solutions and its Des Moines funding collaborative, Central Iowa Works, the newly formed Iowa Skills2Compete Coalition, has just released its policy agenda including recommendations to expand the state’s career pathways efforts, which also compliment the steps Iowa’s policymakers have already taken for the state’s industries and workers.
Over the last two years, Governor Branstad and state lawmakers have made smart investments in the state’s workforce to meet the demand for skilled workers. Funding for community colleges has increased by almost 8 percent, although it still falls short of pre-recession levels. The state legislature also passed legislation to create three new programs that address the skills gap and help more adult workers access the necessary education and training required by jobs in today’s labor market. The Pathways for Academic Career and Employment Act enables community colleges to develop bridge programs to help adults with limited academic or English skills to build basic skills and prepare for credit-bearing postsecondary education programs. The GAP Tuition Assistance Program supports students enrolled in non-credit certificate programs—the cost of which is not covered by federal financial aid—that offer the opportunity to earn certificates necessary to qualify for many middle-skill jobs. The Skilled Workforce Shortage Tuition Grant Program helps students who are seeking education and training for jobs in industries experiencing acute shortages of skilled workers. And most recently, Governor Brandstad announced his Skilled Iowa Initiative which helps more Iowans earn the National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC) and encourages more employers to consider and hire workers who have earned this credential.
In taking stock of these positive actions, the Iowa Skills2Compete Coalition has sensed an opportunity to advance policy recommendations that can accelerate the work Iowa is doing to build out its career pathways system. Iowa is still one of three states that relies solely on federal funding through the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act (AEFLA), even though it is intended to supplement state funding. So the coalition has adopted a recommendation for state funding for adult basic education. Furthermore, the coalition is also seeking an appropriation to support the use of pathway navigators who can work alongside career pathways programs. Pathway navigators can help ensure that students complete their education by providing emotional support and bringing in additional resources to the students such as childcare or tutorial assistance. This practice has been met with great success in places such as Massachusetts. The Coalition is also working to ensure meaningful employer involvement in the development and maintenance of its career pathways programs, like Washington State has done. It is asking that instructions for establishing industry sector partnerships in each community college district be included in the annual higher education funding allocation that each college receives. Iowa’s community colleges are the main administrators of the state’s career pathway programs. And finally, the Coalition has put forth a recommendation to see to it that Iowa’s education and workforce systems can track the number of skilled credentials and certifications, both credit and non-credit, earned by Iowa’s residents more comprehensively so that the state better understands its returns for expanding its career pathways system.
With the new session of the State Legislature just beginning, the Coalition is distributing the agenda to gubernatorial staff, state agency directors, and legislative leaders. It is off to a great start. During their lobby day on January 29, the Governor and Lieutenant Governor met with business leaders of Central Iowa Works. To learn more, view the summary, full report and press release.