PHOTO: Dusty Embree
By Kim Brooks, Express Editor
If you have any doubt about the strength of industry in Jones County, just talk to Jones County Economic Development Director Dusty Embree.
“Industries have definitely bounced back and are hiring more and more,” she said, referring to industries and manufacturing across the board throughout Jones County. “They’re adding jobs and shifts that had to be cut.”
You can’t open the newspaper without seeing ads for various positions available at our local industries from welding to assembly and more.
“Industries are growing and needing more people,” said Embree. She explained if these jobs aren’t filled, companies might look elsewhere for employment. “We need to help fill these jobs so they don’t leave.”
While some of these positions require training and some background in the field, Embree many industries are willing to train on-the-job.
“These places are just looking for people who are willing to work and show up on time. Some don’t even need much training at all,” offered Embree.
In some instances, local industries work with Kirkwood’s Jones Regional Education Center for specialized training and skilled jobs such as welding. However, Embree said sometimes the classes don’t fill up with enough students to follow through with the class.
When it comes to skilled jobs, Embree is working hard to help Jones County become Skilled County, an initiative started by Gov. Terry Branstad called Skilled Iowa. Jones County has to meet four before this can be achieved.
“We’re trying to get people who are employed in and live in Jones County to take the tests,” said Embree. These tests help toward the county’s success in becoming a Skilled County.
There are several ways this label is useful.
“It can be used to promote the skilled workforce,” explained Embree. “It can bring in new businesses and help with recruiting with economic development.”
Embree said all over the state, not just in Jones County, studies show that the general workforce falls short of certain skills. That’s why JCED is working with JREC and offering testing through the Skilled Iowa initiative.
“We’re close to becoming a Skilled County, she said.
This label also allows the state to market Jones County as having a skilled workforce. Right now, Des Moines County is the only Skilled County in Iowa. This would be a huge milestone for Jones County.
“It’s like a feather in the cap,” Embree said. “This recognition helps employers find the right employees and know they’re proficient. “It becomes a helpful tool if it’s used.”
Another project Embree is passionate about is working with high schools in Jones County to promote our local industries. She said students have no idea what’s offered locally as far as employment opportunities.
“Many of these jobs offer entry-level positions and you can work up the ranks,” she said. For some students, going to college isn’t on their radar. Finding a decent job in Jones County could provide them with a bright future. “If these kids get their foot in the door, they’ll have a great start.” She said you don’t have to have a four-year or two-year degree to work at many of the local industries.
In an effort to get out and help another aspect of the workforce, entrepreneurs, Embree started Open Coffee, meeting with folks in both Monticello and Anamosa.
“I hope to target entrepreneurs and connect these people with resources,” she explained. “They can share ideas with others.”
She said Jones County has a lot of entrepreneurs working from home that can share ideas and connect with one another.
“I hope this helps foster conversations and creativity,” said Embree.
The next Open Coffee will be at Java Jones in Monticello on Tuesday, Nov. 26, at 8 a.m.
For more on JCED, visit www.jonescountydevelopment.com.