Business, Legislature Focus on Iowa's Workforce Shortage
February 6, 2020
Rob Boshart at The Gazette
State legislators began work Thursday on the next phase of Gov. Kim Reynolds’ Future Ready Iowa initiative, the same day, the Iowa Business Council issued an annual report indicating the lack of available skilled workers remains the biggest threat to Iowa’s long-term growth.
Legislative subcommittees gave initial approval to a multipronged measure that includes a child-care challenge grant program for working Iowans, a workforce diploma pilot program, computer science instruction, work-based learning coordinators; apprenticeship training and last dollar scholarships to help a broad range of Iowans find a niche in Iowa’s workforce.
“We are going full force ahead” to make Iowa more competitive, the governor told her weekly news conference. “There are a lot of things that we are focusing on that can help address the workforce shortage that every state in the country is experiencing.”
Mary Andringa, leader of Vermeer Corp. in Pella and the Iowa Business Council, said the council’s latest competitiveness check shows the lack of available workers remains the biggest threat to Iowa’s long-term growth.
“As has been for a while, we have more job openings than we have people unemployed,” Andringa told a Statehouse news conference. “So we definitely have a need to bring more people into the state.”
According to the IBC’s yearly report, Iowa is in a strong financial position but faces an ongoing challenge in filling jobs with skilled workers,
“Over the last year, the state experienced a solid gross state product figure, a budget surplus and low unemployment,” Andringa said. “But we know that for businesses to continue to thrive, we need an expanded skilled workforce.”
According to the IBC report, Iowa’s economy has remained steady, maintaining a $190 billion gross state product. It said Iowa’s population growth, diversity and an uncompetitive tax climate continue to be challenges. Creating a future-ready workforce, connecting businesses with education and attracting a more diverse population will be critical to long-term economic prosperity.
According to the IBC Competitive Dashboard, its members employed more than 163,000 Iowans and had a combined payroll exceeding $7.5 billion. They also spent over $3.2 billion in capital improvements and more than $1.5 billion on research and development; gave more than $76 million in charitable contributions and more than 240,000 hours of volunteer time; and spent more than $26 million on education and training.
Iowa’s affordable cost of living, good schools, short work commutes and opportunities are appealing to people who have moved to Iowa, Reynolds said. But “we definitely have a need to bring more people into the state.”
View full 2020 Competitive Dashboard here.
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