Governor Kim Reynolds today said there are nearly 750 registered apprenticeship programs in Iowa where more than 7600 people are learning new skills that will lead to a full-time job.
“We are outpacing states like Georgia and Arizona that have three times the population,” she said during a news conference in Nevada.
The state is spending $4 million this fiscal year to help businesses, trade unions and schools set up apprenticeship programs. The governor visited a John Deere dealership near Nevada which is hosting an apprenticeship program. Eighteen-year-old Kenyon O’Brien is enrolled, taking community college classes and getting hands-on training through the Van Wall dealership in Story City.
“I really enjoyed working with my hands and there’s really no better way than doing this,” O’Brien told reporters.
O’Brien graduated from Gilbert High School and considered getting a four-year degree at Iowa State, but balked at the amount of college debt he’d wind up with for a degree he might not want.
“I’m really looking forward to the on-the-job training experience, taking what I’m learning in school now and applying it to the machine I’m working on,” he said, “and I’m going to graduating with minimal debt and a great job I can grow in.”
O’Brien will finish his apprenticeship in the spring of 2021. Mike Van Houweling, the CEO of Van Wall Equipment, has 150 technicians working at the company’s 21 John Deere dealerships in Iowa.
“We have a real need to continue to add skilled technicians to our team. In fact today, if we could add 40-50 technicians, we would do it in a heartbeat,” Van Houweling said during the news conference. “…You can see why the registered apprenticeship program is so important to our business.”
Van Wall Equipment covers the Northeast Iowa Community College tuition bills for O’Brien and the other apprentices in the program, plus the apprentices get paid.
“Upon graduation from a program like this, the apprentices have really almost unlimited career opportunities in the ag industry and specifically in the dealership business,” Van Houweling said. “We have several candidates who have come through this type of a program who are now key leaders in our organization and it is just a great stepping stone.”
Governor Reynolds has declared November 11-17 as Apprenticeship Week in Iowa.