Iowa has a little over $100,000 to set up some job training for a specialized group of workers. Education Consultant Dale Gruis says it’s to provide health and safety training to miners. There are not many underground mines in Iowa, though Gruis says some of the fifteen or so are quite large, but most are small, medium and large quarries. He says there are a lot of workers involved in the industry.
The dollars come through the Iowa Department of Education, which helps organize training at Iowa’s community colleges for mine and quarry workers in Iowa. Not only is most of the work done outdoors, mining in Iowa has another similarity to farming — both are among the top ten most dangerous career fields. Injuries, heart attacks, the risk of using heavy equipment and moving tons of rock and even using explosives…it all requires some specialized training, Gruis says.
In the third week of February, the Iowa Department of Education will handle the training of about a thousand employees across the state, via a series of on-line lessons distributed on the Iowa Communications Network. Using the ICN and Iowa’s community colleges, employers will set up other training courses for new or current workers as they need it.
There are a handful of trainers across the state with expertise in this industry. The community colleges use them to serve as instructors, and as liaisons with companies to organize classes when and where they need them. Training is required by many insurance companies and by the Mine Safety and Health Administration — that industry’s version of OSHA. The federal regulators report that Iowa has 293 mines currently in operation.