Two of Iowa’s largest employers are warning state lawmakers of a looming labor shortage.
Rod Dooley is the talent acquisition director for Rockwell Collins. "We probably haven’t reached crisis proportions yet, but if you look at of the research out there, it would say that it’s going to be a crisis," he says.
Dooley and an official from Deere and Company testified before a legislative committee Monday, urging lawmakers to spend more money on Iowa’s community colleges and public universities. Dooley says there’s a lack of staff and equipment at the universities and community colleges to adequately train future employees, especially engineers. "I was looking actually at some of the research from one of our competitors who said they, over the next five years, need to hire 45,000 engineers. Well, the nation only graduates 70,000 to 80,000," Dooley says, "so that’s a real issue that one company is going to take over half of ’em."
Deere and Company training manager Don Dedobbelaer is hoping Iowa colleges and universities shorten the time between enrollment and graduation. For example, he’d like to see two-year training programs squeezed into one year to get skilled graduates into the world of work faster. "Thirty years ago when I started with this company it was very much hands on — it was very much a wrench, a screwdriver, a pair of pliers," he says. "Now, it’s more computer-based — it’s more one million lines of imbedded software into a tractor or a combine so production has changed immensely from 30, 40, 50 years ago."
Deere’s training manager says community colleges could help by expanding the number of slots for already-employed workers who want to return to college part-time to learn new skills.