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Beth Townsend, director of the Iowa Workforce Development, gives her presenation at the Future Iowa Ready Summit in Farley on Oct. 31.

Local business people and educators gathered at the Palace Ballroom in Farley early Oct. 31 for the Future Ready Iowa Summit. Attendees fought through some early morning snow for the presentation on Apprenticeship Programs and scholarships that are offered.

Director of the Iowa Workforce Development, Beth Townsend, started the presentation with an overview of the program. She said that the current unemployment rate in Iowa is less than 2.5%, but the real issue is getting younger students and adults involved early.

Iowa had the highest high school graduation rate in the country last year with 34,000 high school graduates in the state. Of that number, 7,500 had no post-secondary intent.

“Employers are starting to realize that they are not getting the skilled workers they need to fill those positions,” Townsend said.

When the businesses were asked if they are having trouble filling positions, the majority of them said they were. The goal with Future Ready Iowa is to build a talent pipeline that will benefit future employees and employers.

This program is for both high school graduates and adults who are struggling to find work. The Last Dollar Scholarship helps finance the training and education needed to get one of these jobs. This fund has given out close to $13 million with an estimated 5,400 scholarships awarded. The goal of this scholarship is to incentivize skilled workers to go back to get their training.

A way businesses can benefit is by the Employer Innovation Fund. These grants are handed out a few times a year, with the most recent being given in August and the last handed out in December.

The Employer Innovation Fund addresses the barriers beyond tuition and fees. However, it does not cover personnel costs or benefits. Iowa is the current leader in the nation of Registered Apprenticeship Programs with 2,343 business partners.

“You are building a pipeline for qualified workers,” Katie Bahl, Business Marketing Specialist with IowaWORKS, said. “Businesses can build their own program or use something similar to a plan that is already in place.”

Five core components of a Registered Apprenticeship Programs are employer involvement, structured on-the-job learning, related technical instruction, rewards for skill gains and National Occupational Credential.

Representatives from the Western Dubuque School District, EIMCO and Truck Country were all in attendance. WDHS’s principal and special education director, Jake Feldmann and Vicky Coyle, gave a presentation on the School to Work program at WD.

“Our goal at Western Dubuque is to prepare all of our students for when they graduate from high school,” Feldmann said.

Businesses or those interested in the Apprenticeship Programs and scholarships should visit FutureReadyIowa.gov.