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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
The Iowa Association of Business and Industry and the state's 15 community colleges are working to address the Iowa's need for skilled workers - specifically in manufacturing.
The groups launched a statewide marketing and educational campaign earlier this week to provide information and fight outdated perceptions about careers in manufacturing.
Leisa Fox, senior vice president of revenue and programs at ABI, said the goal of the Elevate Iowa campaign is to connect individuals with educational resources and potential employment opportunities as well as connecting businesses with students.
To do that, ABI and the Iowa-Advanced Manufacturing Consortium - the group of community colleges, which banded together in April to begin addressing this problem - list resources for training and certificate programs, a job search, and general information about advanced manufacturing careers, including average salaries, career paths and the industry's projected growth.
"We want to cultivate relationships with local school systems and connect companies with students," Fox said.
A goal of the campaign is to offer more students tours of manufacturing facilities and provide them with testimonials from workers.
Fox said the groups are in the process of surveying manufacturers to find companies interested in participating in the program.
"We hope to establish a robust and diverse list," she said.
Manufacturing companies are in need of skilled workers as technological advances significantly have changed the industry.
A 2012 Iowa Workforce Development report found that while 50 percent of the jobs in Iowa are classified as middle skill - meaning they require more than a high school degree, such as manufacturing - only 33 percent of the labor supply is qualified for these positions.
Fox said it's important for both technical schools and companies to work on providing the training needed for these jobs.
"Everyone needs to work in conjunction," she said. "It has to happen together."
Manufacturing companies employ more than 215,600 Iowans and represent more than 14 percent of the state's total employment, according to statistics from the Department of Labor. Iowa's factories have added 6,900 jobs since 2010, a 3.4 percent growth.
"The public needs to have a better understanding of how much manufacturing contributes to the economy in Iowa," she said. "A lot of times, in rural communities, it's the best paying job you can get that is also very accessible."