Conference replay: The role of immigrants in Iowa's future workforce

As young, educated Iowans leave the state, international immigrants "prop up" the population

A Regionalism/Workforce session underway during the 2017 Iowa Ideas Conference in downtown Cedar Rapids on September 21, 2017. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

As Iowa's employers compete for talent in a state with consistently low unemployment, could immigration be a solution? 

Going forward, researchers predict workforce challenges will become even more pronounced: As nearly a quarter of Iowans in the workforce approach retirement age and many younger Iowans pursue higher education or move out of state, Liesl Eathington, assistant scientist in the department of economics at Iowa State University, predicted that Iowa could face a shortage of 35,000 workers 10 years from now.

Meanwhile, immigration accounts for 40 percent of Iowa's population growth since 2010, she said. 

“The obvious answer is international in-migration. We’re not currently doing a great job of domestic migration," Eathington said. 

"It’s not a question of do we need international in-migrants for our labor force, it’s how many.”

At Iowa Ideas 2017, September 20-22 in Cedar Rapids, panelists discussed the roles immigrants play in Iowa's current and future workforce. 

Panelists included: 

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