Government

Iowa business, community colleges partner to offer work-based learning

Effort is part of governor's 'war for talent'

Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds (center) talks with officials from Kirkwood Community College and the University of Iowa during a November 2016 visit to the Kirkwood Regional Center at the University of Iowa in Coralville. Reynolds, who is now Iowa’s governor, on Wednesday launched a partnership between Iowa’s community colleges and businesses, intended to align learning opportunities with jobs in the state. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds (center) talks with officials from Kirkwood Community College and the University of Iowa during a November 2016 visit to the Kirkwood Regional Center at the University of Iowa in Coralville. Reynolds, who is now Iowa’s governor, on Wednesday launched a partnership between Iowa’s community colleges and businesses, intended to align learning opportunities with jobs in the state. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — Citing the “war for talent,” Gov. Kim Reynolds joined presidents of Iowa community colleges and the Iowa Association of Business and Industry in launching a partnership to improve and expand work-based learning.

“We have to do everything we can to help students and adult learners to prepare for the careers of today as well as the careers of tomorrow,” the governor said Wednesday morning at the launch of the Work-based Opportunity Regional Referral Consortium (WORRC), which also will implement workforce recommendations of the Governor’s Future Ready Iowa Alliance.

“This is especially important for high-demand jobs in information technology, advanced manufacturing, health care, skilled trades and other fields where employers can’t hire enough workers,” Reynolds said.

David Zrostlik, president of Stellar Industries in Garner and chairman of the Iowa Association of Business and Industry’s board, said the 1,500 member companies have one thing in common: “We are all looking for employees.”

The state’s 15 community colleges and ABI member companies will collaborate to increase the number of work-related learning opportunities such as apprenticeships, internships, job shadowing and career coaching.

Also, better coordination of work-based learning initiatives will help grow Iowa’s pool of skilled workers, Zrostlik said.

The partnership will help “prime the workforce pipeline,” said Liang Wee, president Northeast Iowa Community College in Peosta.

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ABI and the community colleges have many common priorities, he said, including the skilled workforce needed to grow business and Iowa’s economy, “which lifts the wealth of Iowa families.”

“That’s the bottom line,” Wee said.

Giving students work-based learning opportunities while they are in school “gives them an opportunity to understand what that career is really like, get to know a particular employer,” said Rob Denson, president of Des Moines Area Community College. That not only increases the likelihood of those students having job opportunities when they graduate, but, Denson said, they will be more likely to stay in Iowa.

“I call it a capture rate,” Denson said.

l Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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