A Texas-based software company is announcing a major, first-of-its-kind grant to the Atlantic Center of Iowa Western Community College. The school is getting 65-million dollars to develop a design technology program. Dan Malliet, an Iowa native and a senior vice president at Seimens Product Lifestyle Management Software, says the students will be trained to use software that’s now being used by more than five-million engineers worldwide to build a wide variety of products and services.

Malliet says the software grant includes a training and specialized software certification program so students can be ready to enter the workforce. Jay Miller, an Atlantic native and former Siemens employee, was the driving force behind the four-year effort to bring the program to Atlantic.

Miller says a combination of advancing technologies and an aging workforce created a real need for a new generation of employees in design technology. He says an example of that need was demonstrated in a response to a recent survey conducted by Iowa Western’s advisory board.

Miller says a Rockwell Collins official in Cedar Rapids said over 50% of the company’s workforce will be eligible for retirement within ten years, while within five years, over 45% will be eligible. His company has five open positions today and he wishes the students who will be trained in the software program were available right now.

Miller says the partnership between academia, industry and other volunteers made the effort possible. Governor Terry Branstad says it’s one of his goals to bring 200,000 new jobs to Iowa in the next five years. Branstad says the program at Iowa Western will benefit Siemens’ customers and will also bring more jobs to Iowa. The governor says he’ll do his best to make it happen, despite challenges.

Branstad says, “We in state government want to do our part to eliminate some of those obstacles, reducing the tax and regulatory burdens and having a more nimble economic development program.” Branstad didn’t mention the cuts community colleges, like Iowa Western, will have to endure if his budget passes.

Randy Pasch, president of Iowa Western’s Board of Trustees, made it clear that his college is struggling. Pasch says their business relationships are what’s allowed them to forge ahead and make the program being offered this fall in Atlantic, a reality.

“At a time when our board is dealing with serious budgetary issues as a result of shrinking funding, it’s a breath of fresh air to be involved with the private-public partnership that’s been forged around this project,” Pasch says. “Without support like that, the design technology program wouldn’t get off the ground.”

By Ric Hanson, KJAN, Atlantic