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CEDAR RAPIDS — Gov. Kim Reynolds toured a Manchester high school welding lab she hopes will be a model for registered apprenticeship programs across Iowa.

“I’ve been talking about what West Delaware is doing all over the state,” Reynolds said after touring the West Delaware High School’s welding lab Thursday. “We can do this anywhere. They’ve shown that with partnerships and bringing people together and not being afraid to do things differently you can have a tremendous impact.”

West Delaware and Northeast Iowa Community College are offering a registered apprenticeship to train welders for local industries, including Henderson Products, XL Specialized Trailers and Paladin Attachments. The plan calls for starting with five apprenticeships this semester with the hopes to expand that to at least 20 within two years.

The program will help students develop career-ready skills in high-demand fields while earning a paycheck and debt-free college credit, Reynolds said. The “earn-and-learn” approach sets students on a career pathway and helps develop a talent pipeline of skilled workers in fields like advanced manufacturing, health care, information technology, value-added agriculture and others.

Apprenticeships will be invaluable to the students and their communities, Reynolds said.

“You’re keeping your young people here,” Reynolds said, adding, “They’re great jobs. With benefits.”

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In June, the Governor’s STEM Advisory Council released a registered apprenticeship high school playbook. Vermeer, Pella Career Academy and Des Moines Area Community College developed the playbook as they designed their new registered apprenticeship programs in welding. West Delaware communicated with Pella, as well as Boone, as it worked on establishing its own registered apprenticeship program.

Expanding registered apprenticeships fits into Reynolds’ Future Ready Iowa goal of 70 percent of the state’s workforce gaining education or training beyond high school by 2025. The Legislature passed a $1 million Registered Apprenticeship Development Program with seed grants to start registered apprenticeship programs leading to high-demand jobs for small- to mid-size sponsors. Sponsors could be businesses, high schools or colleges.

The Iowa Economic Development Authority will take applications beginning in January and award up to $25,000 for each new program with 20 or fewer apprentices in high-demand fields. Awards will be distributed in spring 2019. This program enhances Iowa’s $3-million-a-year investment to increase the number of registered apprentices by providing training grants for sponsors of all sizes. That money helped maintain 538 registered apprenticeship programs for 5,806 registered apprentices in fiscal year 2018.

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