Future Ready Iowa Alliance to help tackle Branstad's workforce goals

Grant from Lumina Foundation to support group

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PELLA — Dan Houston, president and CEO of Principal Financial Group, called it “a big deal” and something that is “imperative” the state accomplish.

Houston was speaking of Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad’s goal of getting 70 percent of the state’s workforce equipped with some form of post-high school education or training by 2025. Roughly half of the workforce has such credentials today, Branstad says.

Branstad on Monday announced the creation of a stakeholder group that will be charged with developing recommendations as to how the state can achieve that goal.

Branstad used his executive authority to create the Future Ready Iowa Alliance, to which he will appoint representatives from state government, business, education, labor, economic development and non-profits, among other arenas.

The group will be led by Houston and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds.

“It’s a big deal, and it’s something that is imperative we get done,” Houston said. “To say that a prepared workforce for jobs in Iowa is critical, frankly, is an understatement.”

Houston said Principal is in the midst of a $400 million expansion, one the company would not make without faith in the Iowa workforce.

“That $400 million investment would not have been made unless we thought that the workforce in Iowa was ready to perform the kinds of jobs with the kinds of skill sets that we needed,” Houston said.

Houston said the group will work to identify the high-demand jobs of today and the future, work closer with educators to prepare students for careers and find ways to offer more education and training for adults.

Branstad said the group also will be charged with developing a timeline and metrics to determine the state’s success in achieving its goal. He expects the group to meet periodically and submit its report by October 2017.

The group’s work will be funded with grant money. Lumina Foundation, an Indiana-based private foundation dedicated to increasing the number of Americans with degrees, certificates and other credentials, has contributed a $100,000 grant. The state also will use roughly $30,000 remaining from a previously issued National Governors Association grant.

“Iowa needs to build on the work already underway to design a dynamic, 21st-century education-to-employment system to help more students and adults prepare and advance, with an emphasis on high-demand jobs,” Branstad said.

Branstad signed the executive order at Career Academy, a division of the Pella Community School District that gives students hands-on experience with trade professions. In addition to Houston and Reynolds, Branstad was joined by representatives from the Academy, the Lumina Foundation and Vermeer, a Pella-based manufacturer.

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