DES MOINES — Gov. Kim Reynolds said Wednesday she hopes 2018 is the year the state can eliminate "the disconnect" between high-demand jobs and the educational and skills training it takes for many Iowans to land them.
The Reynolds administration has a Future Ready Iowa goal for 70 percent of Iowa's workforce to have education, training or recognized certification beyond high school by 2025 and an alliance of leaders in business, industry, education and other fields have formulated a strategic plan to achieve the desired result.
"I really feel like everything is starting to coalesce," Reynolds told participants at an Excellence in Education Summit hosted by the Greater Des Moines Partnership and United Way of Central Iowa. "There's been a lot of great efforts happening across the state over the past several years and they're really all starting to align."
To achieve the goal, Reynolds said an additional 127,700 Iowans need to earn post-secondary degrees and other credentials so they have the qualifications for jobs that are in demand and pay a living wage — given that careers now and in the future require advanced knowledge and technical skills beyond what is learned in high school.
Among the strategies the alliance recommended was the establishment of a "Last-Dollar" Scholarship and Future Ready Iowa Grant Program to help bridge the financial divide with money for Iowans seeking to earn up to an associate's degree at Iowa colleges and universities or for Iowans seeking a bachelor's degree who already have earned more than half the credits in a major leading to a high-demand job.
Other ideas called for better aligning and expanding the existing "ecosystem of support" for Iowans who are beginning or returning to complete college or career training with a focus on low-income Iowans and Iowans who are underrepresented minorities, and expanding high-quality work-based learning experiences in high-demand careers to all students with employer-based pre-apprenticeship, apprenticeship and internship programs.
"We talk a lot about growing the economy and right now that means workers," Reynolds said after the meeting. "I believe there is an opportunity for us to build on some of the programs that are already in place" along with public-partnerships and better coordination for what business groups, educators and others already are doing.
Reynolds said she won't know until next month how much new state money will be available for fiscal 2019 when the Revenue Estimating Conference meets but she expects money for education and the workforce initiatives will get priority consideration.
"I don't know how much but I definitely want to put some money behind it because it's one of my No. 1 priorities," she said. "We're going to have to be strategic about where we're putting it."