The chair of the Economic Growth Committee in the Iowa Senate is trying to rally support for two worker training programs as a means to cut the state’s unemployment rate. Senator Steve Sodders, a Democrat from State Center, says jobs are out there, and the unemployed are out there – they just need to be trained.

“But we have to invest, we can’t just talk about this…we have to put the money behind this program,” Sodders said at a statehouse press conference. “We have to invest in these folks who are unemployed or underemployed.” The gap assistance program, or GAP, and pathways for academic career and employment, or PACE, both use community colleges to train unemployed Iowans in highly skilled fields like welding or nursing.

“We have workers who can do these jobs in Iowa, we simply have to get them into these programs, raise their skill level and they’re going to have jobs. We could literally lower our unemployment (rate), in my opinion, by three percent,” Sodders said. Iowa’s unemployment rate in December was 5.6%.

 Mike Severt lost his job after the factory he had worked at for 32 years closed its doors. He credits the GAP and PACE programs for his return to the workforce.

“I’m a certified welder now…and if it hadn’t been for these programs, I wouldn’t be where I am at now,” Severt told reporters. Sodders said lawmakers can find a way to fund GAP and PACE, but Governor Branstad’s budget proposal calls for cuts to worker training programs.