Gov. Kim Reynolds talked about a number of issues during a meeting with our editorial board this week. But she often steered the conversation back to the big concern that’s commanding much of her focus in 2019.
“I tell you, this workforce thing is serious,” Reynolds told us. “That’s the biggest barrier we have to economic growth right now.
“We passed big initiatives last year. I want to make sure that we get them going and we’re funding them,” Reynolds said.
The bold-print headline over Reynolds’ workforce effort is “Future Ready Iowa,” an initiative approved unanimously by lawmakers last year intended to help tens of thousands of Iowans find educational and vocational training opportunities. Future Ready Iowa’s goal is to have 70 percent of Iowa workers complete some form of education or training post-high school. The governor is asking the Legislature for $20 million next budget year to fund Future Ready scholarships and other initiatives.
But Reynolds’ workforce vision extends beyond a single program.
She sees her requests for increased funding for K-12 schools, universities and community colleges as down payments toward Iowa’s future workforce after years of tight budgets.
Reynolds called for creation of a Center for Rural Revitalization to help Iowa’s rural areas access development opportunities, and has asked lawmakers for additional rural housing dollars. She’s requested $20 million to improve broadband connectivity across the state, money that will be matched by private investments.
Reynolds’ “second chance” agenda includes vocational training and assistance for prison inmates who will join the state’s workforce upon release. Her effort includes apprenticeships and job fairs inside prison walls.
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The governor clearly recognizes the connections between a better-educated workforce and the state’s unmet mental health care, child care and overall health care needs.
Reynolds visited three businesses in her travels Wednesday and got a clear signal of the owners’ priorities.
“Without hesitation they go to workforce,” Reynolds said.
We agree with Reynolds’ sense of urgency in tackling a worsening workforce shortage. She’s set high goals and is leaving no stone unturned. We’re impressed by the breadth and depth of her approach.
We also hope it makes an impression on lawmakers of both parties. Legislators should rise to Reynolds’ challenge, embrace her goals and approve her funding initiatives. Doing so could prove to be the biggest bipartisan accomplishment of the 2019 session.
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