The leaders of Iowa’s 15 community colleges have announced a new partnership with companies to improve the state’s manufacturing workforce.
Kirkwood Community College President Mick Starcevich says the manufacturing sector is growing in Iowa and badly in need of qualified employees. “We’re going to try to close the skills gap, so the employers have the right jobs for our students when they enroll and when (companies) hire them,” Starcevich said.
The new initiative was unveiled Thursday with a press conference at the Iowa City headquarters of ACT, the nonprofit that administers the college assessment exam and other education and career programs.
Starcevich said a key component of the Iowa Advanced Manufacturing Consortium involves the National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC), which employers use as a screening tool for hiring workers. Iowa Workforce Development and ACT are partnering to provide the NCRC assessments at no cost, according to Starcevich. Currently, the battery of three tests costs $37. Beginning June 1st, the testing will be free.
A $13 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor is helping fund the consortium. Kirkwood has already used a portion of the grant money to purchase new equipment for classroom training. Starcevich said the machinery at Kirkwood is designed to prepare students for direct entry into the manufacturing workforce without additional training.
As of March 2012, Iowa’s manufacturing firms supplied 215,600 jobs to Iowans, representing 10.6% of the state’s total employment.