Iowa needs more skilled workers

Guest Column
Tod Bowman
Iowa State Senator, 29th Dist.

     Many companies throughout Iowa have stated that our state needs more skilled workers.

     Currently, 58 percent of Iowa workers have education or training beyond High School. Community colleges are the key to expanding on that 58 percent. Iowa has an unemployment rate of 3.2 percent. This is one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation.

     The problem for Iowa is not the lack of jobs but lack of workers that is slowing economic growth. We need policies that will attract new workers to the state, and we need programs that will give workers the skills they need to fill job openings.

     Programs—like the Vocational-Technical Tuition Grant Program (est. 1973), State General Aid for Community Colleges, the Iowa Apprenticeship Act (est. 2014), Iowa Skilled Worker & Job Creation Fund, and Workforce Training & Economic Development Fund (WTED)—provide assistance for people seeking to improve their skills.

     The newest budget from the Branstad-Reynolds Administration, however, includes more than $10 million in cuts to workforce training. That represents a 50-percent reduction. The attack on workers during this session has also taken its toll—gutting collective bargaining for public employees, changing our workers’ compensation law, restricting local governments from raising their minimum wage above the state level, and eliminating project labor agreements.

     Runaway tax credits have caused major budget shortfalls, and the Branstad-Reynolds Administration along with Senate Republicans have decided to balance the budget on the backs of workers, students and schools.

     Branstad-Reynolds have proposed cutting $6 million in basic state aid to community colleges. Their mid-year reduction for community colleges was $4.75 million. They now want to cut another $1.3 million for next year. This is unfortunate because 90 percent of community college graduates stay in Iowa to live, work, raise a family—and grow our economy.

     Iowa’s public universities face $14.1 million in cuts next year, which erases three years’ worth of funding increases for the University of Iowa and Iowa State.

     Cutting funding for community colleges and universities on top of all the anti-worker bills is counter-intuitive. This will not give us more skilled workers; it will only make things worse.

     Iowa needs policies that will entice out-of-state workers to make their home in Iowa and policies that will expand the skills of our current workforce so that we can grow our economy.

     The Branstad-Reynolds Administration stated that they want 70 percent of the Iowa workforce to have training or education beyond high school. Instead of cutting funding for programs that will help us achieve that goal, we need to find non-essential parts of the budget to cut instead.


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