Iowa currently faces a skills gap because there are not enough workers possessing the needed skills for the jobs available. Right now, 55% of jobs available in Iowa are middle skill jobs. These jobs require more than a high school diploma but not a four year degree; they require an associate’s degree, a training certificate, or an apprenticeship. However, only 32% of our workforce has this skill set.

This lack of skilled workers presents a challenge for businesses looking to expand or relocate as well as an opportunity for Iowans looking for better paying jobs. To that end, House Democrats pushed legislation this year to improve Iowa’s job training systems.

The Future Ready Iowa legislation brings forward the recommendations of the Future Ready Alliance with the goal of the having 70% of Iowa’s workforce with education or training beyond high school by the year 2025. The legislation creates a new apprenticeship program under the Economic Development Authority designed to incentivize small and medium sized apprenticeship programs to create new or more apprenticeships.

The bill also creates a volunteer mentor program; a summer youth intern pilot program for at risk youth; an Iowa Employer Innovation Program focused on training for high demand jobs and a Future Ready Iowa Skilled Workforce Grant Program for state universities or accredited private colleges. Additionally, the legislation directs the Department of Workforce Development and area community colleges to identify and create a list of high demand jobs for these programs.

However, many lawmakers expressed concern the Future Ready initiative wasfunded while steep hikes in tuition at community colleges and state universities will put higher education out of reach for many Iowans.

Lawmakers also worked together this year to update the development and delivery of job training services. In addition to updating local workforce development boards, new duties for the board include developing a comprehensive four year workforce development plan to engage local employers and make sure the workforce activities meet the needs of employers. The board will also work with high schools and community colleges to lead efforts to align employment, training, and education that are needed by adults and youth, particularly individuals with a barrier to employment.