Eastern Iowa leaders aim to build career pipeline

Cedar Rapids event will connect businesses, local students

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After hearing local business leaders wonder how to better reach area students, DaLayne Williamson and her colleagues on the board of Workplace Learning Connection, decided to do something about it.

"We needed to facilitate a conversation,” said Williamson, the Workforce Business Services director for the Iowa City Area Development Group.

As a result, the inaugural "Connecting Today’s Students to Tomorrow’s Careers" will be held 1 to 5 p.m., Thursday, at the Kirkwood Center, 7725 Kirkwood Blvd. SW, Cedar Rapids.

To Mary Lou Erlacher, director of Workplace Learning Connection — an organization designed to provide job exposure opportunities for local students — the more than 100 attendees who have registered for the event. Attendees can hear about the realities of the current economic climate and what the work and education worlds can offer each other in presentations and discussions with educators, employers, students and local resource providers.

“There’s a certain sense that if you can keep people here, it’s cheaper in the long run than having to recruit them," she said.

Workplace Learning Connection staff will host the free event with support from the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance, IowaWorks, the Employers Council of Iowa and Kirkwood Community College.

For Joe Barry, vice president of business development at Innovative Software Engineering in Coralville, the problem of "short supply for a high-demand skill" is real, and the answer requires educators, employers and economic development groups in the Iowa City-Cedar Rapids Corridor.

“This is not a problem that we are going to solve overnight. I think it’s taken decades to get into this situation and it will take a long time to work our way out of it," said Barry, who is planning to attend the event.

"I hope Thursday is an opportunity to roll up our sleeves and see what we can do short term, medium term and long term, as a community to collaborate on initiatives to build our work force."

For more information, go to www.iowacityareadevelopment.com/wlcevent or call (319) 398-1040. 

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