DES MOINES — Gov. Kim Reynolds’ priority of upgrading Iowans’ workforce skills won bipartisan praise and unanimous approval in the Iowa House on Wednesday.
“Today is the first step to allow Iowa to reach its full workforce potential,” Rep. Peter Cownie, R-West Des Moines, said about House File 2458.
“This is a good, noble and attainable goal,” he said about the governor’s priority to raise the percentage of Iowa workers with training or education beyond high school from 58 percent today to 70 percent by 2025.
Iowa has a “good problem” in that state unemployment is low — 2.9 percent, Cownie said, but it has a shortage of workers with the skills necessary to fill many of the job openings around the state.
The Future Ready Iowa Act “gives Iowans the opportunity to learn a high-demand skill and then not only get a job to pay the bills, but also a rewarding career,” Reynolds said after the House voted 98-0 to send the bill to the Senate, where a companion bill has been approved by the Commerce Committee. “That’s life-changing.”
The legislation includes a variety of components, including mentoring and apprenticeships, scholarships and summer youth employment programs.
Cownie saw the use of so many “tools” as one of the strengths of the bill.
“We have a lot of tools,” he said. “Let’s use them all better.”
Future Ready Iowa involves the regents’ universities, private colleges, community colleges, the Department of Education, Workforce Development, Iowa Economic Development Authority “and perhaps, most importantly, it uses our private sector where we want to grow jobs.”
Although the bill had the support of all House members, Rep. Chris Hall, D-Sioux City, offered a note of caution. The governor, he said, has proposed $18 million for Future Ready Iowa in fiscal 2020.
That’s “not something we’ve been able to come with easily in the last two years,” Hall said. “If we are not able to find funding to back up the policy, this is something that is really just lip service.”