The Iowa House has approved legislation that attempts to elevate vocational and technical programs in Iowa schools. Representative Mary Ann Hanusa, a Republican from Council Bluffs, says Iowa businesses are struggling to fill high-skill jobs that require more than a high school diploma, but do not require a four-year college degree.
“The bill calls for collaboration between business, between the school districts and between the community colleges and partnerships to help provide opportunities for our students that, in many cases, are not now there,” Hanusa says.
Some regions of the state have that kind of collaboration established already, but the bill aims to ensure all students in Iowa have access to those kinds of career paths. Representative Josh Byrnes, a Republican from Osage, says the bill is the culmination of a two-year task force. Representatives of business and labor organizations as well as educators were part of the effort.
“This is a big issue in the state of Iowa,” Byrnes says. “We’ve got a shortage of workers.”
Representative Ron Jorgensen, a Republican from Sioux City, is chairman of the House Education Committee.
“I think this is an important piece of legislation backed by a lot of people, from a lot of hard work,” Jorgensen says.
The bill passed by unanimous vote in the House and now goes to the Senate.
Representative Cindy Winckler, a Democerat from Davenport who voted for the bill, nonetheless says the legislation is flawed because there’s no money in the bill for career and technical education programs in Iowa’s middle schools and high schools.
“I appreciate all the work that has been done on this bill and I know that labor and industry have had a significant role in identifying what we need to do,” Winckler says. “I’m not sure that we have a clear path to how we would accomplish it.”
The bill calls for all Iowa schools to establish advisory boards so local businesses and community college officials can provide input to improve a district’s vocational and technical programs.