Government

Iowa gets seat at the table of national workforce panel

Reynolds appointed as lawmakers consider millions for job training

Presidential adviser Ivanka Trump and Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds participate in a discussion March 19, 2018, after touring the Waukee Innovation and Learning Center. The roundtable focused on the education and workforce development priorities of the Trump administration. (Pool photo by Rodney White/Des Moines Register)
Presidential adviser Ivanka Trump and Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds participate in a discussion March 19, 2018, after touring the Waukee Innovation and Learning Center. The roundtable focused on the education and workforce development priorities of the Trump administration. (Pool photo by Rodney White/Des Moines Register)

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds will join the chief executives of Apple, Walmart, IBM and 20 other industry, government and academic leaders in advising the White House on how to prepare employees and job seekers for workforce shifts brought by increasing automation and artificial intelligence technology.

The appointments, announced Wednesday by the U.S. Commerce Department, come as robots and other automation technologies already have made deep advances in fields including manufacturing and agriculture.

In January, a Brookings Institute study ranked Iowa fourth from the top in the nation of “average automation potential” — meaning it has one of the nation’s highest rates of workplace roles susceptible to being overtaken by automation or artificial intelligence.

Nearly 28 percent of Iowa’s worker tasks are at high risk of being replaced by automation, the study found. The reason has to do with the key types of industry here — production, food service, transportation and agriculture.

The panel Reynolds will join, the American Workforce Policy Advisory Board, is co-chaired by presidential adviser Ivanka Trump and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. Corporate executives also joining include those from Lockheed Martin, Siemens, Home Depot and Visa.

In 2017, Reynolds and fellow panelist Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, announced the tech giant would build a $1.38 billion data center in Waukee. The company won more than $213 million in tax credits and incentives to build the project — including $194 million from Waukee and $20 million from the state.

A presidential order creating the panel said it will address workforce issues including “automation, and artificial intelligence that is shaping many industries.”

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In 2015, the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce projected 68 percent of jobs in Iowa will require education or training beyond high school by 2025.

That led to a call to get 70 percent of Iowa’s workforce the necessary education or training by that time — up from the current 58 percent.

Reynolds has asked the Iowa Legislature this year to approve $20 million in the coming fiscal year and $12 million the following year for the “Future Ready Iowa” job preparation initiative.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said job openings nationally reached a record high in December at 7.3 million. The White House said the job openings present “a mismatch between the skills needed and those being taught, requiring immediate attention to help more Americans enter the workforce.”

In August 2017, President Donald Trump disbanded two high-profile business advisory councils after numerous chief executives quit over his remarks blaming violence in Virginia both on anti-racism activists and white nationalists.

Trump dissolved the American Manufacturing Council and the Strategic and Policy Forum after eight executives, including the chief executives of Campbell Soup and 3M, quit in protest.

Both councils were moving to disband when Trump made his announcement on Twitter.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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