Government

Support builds for $22 million plan to fund Future Ready Iowa

Lawmakers hear business groups praise Reynolds' plan to 'skill up' workforce

The dome of the State Capitol building in Des Moines is shown on Tuesday, January 13, 2015. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)
The dome of the State Capitol building in Des Moines is shown on Tuesday, January 13, 2015. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — A $22 million plan to fund Gov. Kim Reynolds’ legislative priority of helping Iowans “skill up” to meet the demands of the job market received support from lawmakers and lobbyists Monday.

A five-member House Appropriations subcommittee heard support from business groups, builders, developers and others for Future Ready Iowa, Reynolds’ initiative that aims to ensure 70 percent of Iowa workers have training or education beyond high school by 2025.

Today, just 58 percent of the workforce between the ages of 25 and 64 has met those goals, up just three-tenths of a percent from the previous year.

“Future Ready Iowa moves us faster in the right direction,” Kayla Lyon of the Governor’s Office told the panel.

The initiative combines several approaches to help Iowans improve their workforce skills, including summer internship programs for at-risk youths and scholarships to help people complete bachelor degrees.

Workforce development is the top legislative priority for the Iowa Association of Business and Industry, Nicole Crain told lawmakers. Crain, the association’s senior vice president of public policy, said Future Ready Iowa will complement the work association members have been doing the past five years through a public-private partnership “to educate students and parents about the opportunities in manufacturing.”

Future Ready Iowa “is a great public-private partnership,” said Georgia Van Gundy of the Iowa Business Council. Council members see workforce as a barrier in competing with other states, she said.

“They want to be in Iowa, they want to grow in Iowa, they want to expand in Iowa,” but they continue to run into workforce barriers, Van Gundy said.

Lawmakers unanimously approved the policy part of Future Ready Iowa last year and are expected to approve the governor’s funding request.

Appropriations Committee Chairman Pat Grassley, R-New Hartford, expects bipartisan support for the funding because of the broad support from interest groups and because of what lawmakers are hearing.

“We’re trying to address something that is an issue in every one of our districts,” he said. “This is the No. 1 issue.”

Rep. Chris Hall, D-Sioux City, vice chairman of the Appropriations Committee, agreed that “both Democrats and Republicans recognize that we need to be working on our workforce shortage ... (but) not just rebranding programs and shuffling dollars and claiming victory.”

“We need to be creative and substantive in how we’re addressing the workforce shortage,” he said.

Grassley called the meeting so he and other lawmakers could get answers to their questions about the components of Future Ready Iowa as well as estimates of how many Iowans will be served by the programs.

His subcommittee included the chairmen of the Economic Development and Education Appropriations subcommittees. At this point, it hasn’t been decided whether Future Ready Iowa funding will come through House Study Bill 179 or through the regular appropriations process with the funds coming from both economic development and education budgets.

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

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