Iowa’s greatest opportunity for economic growth is to build a workforce that’s nimble, highly skilled and filled with lifelong learners. Today, we are experiencing a shortage of skilled workers across every region of our state and all types of industries — from manufacturing and skilled trades, to health care and information technology. But through dynamic public-private partnerships, we’ve implemented innovative solutions that start in our schools and continue in the workplace to ensure that opportunity lives here.
Building Iowa’s workforce starts at school. In today’s knowledge economy, it is more important than ever that our schools are preparing students for 21st-century careers. We can be proud of our focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education and work-based learning experiences, and should continue to build on our foundation. Following a historic investment in preK-12 education in 2019, the Governor proposes we again increase education funding:
- $100+ million in NEW preK-12 education funding, including $5.5 million in new funding for transportation equity.
Computer science is a modern-day basic skill that every student must have to be successful in the workplace. We must invest in developing computer science educators and increasing learning opportunities for K-12 students to ensure Iowa’s workforce of the future will thrive.
In 2020, the Governor proposes:
- Developing and implementing a statewide K-12 computer science plan that includes options for classroom and virtual instruction by July 1, 2021.
- Requiring accredited high schools to offer at least one semester of computer science by July 1, 2021.
- Requiring accredited elementary and middle schools to provide computer science in at least one grade level each by July 1, 2022.
Hands-on, real-world projects help students explore career possibilities at an early age and discover what interests them. To continue Iowa’s progress in integrating work-based learning into the overall education experience, the Governor proposes:
- Growing the virtual Iowa Clearinghouse for WorkBased Learning by creating more school-business partnerships that engage K-12 students in authentic, professional experiences.
- Adding work-based learning coordinators to positions covered by operational sharing to expand opportunities for students to connect the classroom to future careers through face-to-face, school-business partnerships.
- Continuing the Summer Youth Intern Pilot Program to increase opportunities for students at risk of not graduating from high school to learn employability skills.
- Expanding summer dual enrollment funding to $1 million so more high school students can prepare for high-demand careers by earning college credit.
Future Ready Iowa Act
In 2018, Governor Reynolds signed the Future Ready Iowa Act, launching an aggressive workforce policy initiative to ensure that 70 percent of Iowans in the workforce achieve training or education beyond high school by the year 2025. In 2019, Future Ready Iowa made a positive impact on the lives of thousands of Iowans seeking new opportunities.
The Last Dollar Scholarship is providing more than $13 million to 6,000+ students enrolled in community and private college programs leading to high-demand jobs. Nearly 80 percent of scholarship recipients are adult learners. Additionally, dozens of Iowa companies, schools and community organizations were awarded $1.2 million through the Employer Innovation Fund, a matching grant program to help fund local education and workforce development initiatives.
In 2020, the Governor proposes continuing to build on the success of Future Ready Iowa with additional investment and new initiatives, creating even more pathways to high-demand careers:
- Expanding the Last Dollar Scholarship program by increasing funding to $15.8 million and broadening eligibility by allowing more flexibility in enrollment requirements.
- Expanding the Employer Innovation Fund to $4 million and launching the Child Care Challenge Fund to help with the construction, renovation or remodeling of child care facilities.
- Launching Early Career IA, a career pathway for new high school graduates pursuing college while working in hard-to-fill, high-demand positions in their professional field of interest and holding down student loan debt.
- Expanding the 15C Registered Apprenticeship program by providing funding for training for small- to mid-sized businesses with 20 or fewer Registered Apprentices in high-demand occupations.
One of the most significant barriers to entering the workforce is the availability and affordability of child care. Twenty-three percent of Iowans live in child care deserts. Over the past five years, Iowa has lost 40 percent of its child care businesses and it’s estimated there is a shortfall of more than 350,000 child care slots across the state. The child care crisis is not only affecting families, it’s impacting the state’s workforce at a time when Iowa is missing out on nearly $675 million in annual GDP because of a shortage of employees. The Governor proposes the following initiatives in 2020 to address this issue and create opportunities for more Iowa families:
- Increasing the number of families that qualify for the Early Childhood Development (ECD) and Child and Dependent Care (CDC) tax credits by doubling the maximum net income amount for eligibility from $45,000 to $90,000.
- Expanding eligibility for child care assistance by implementing a tiered copay system for families earning 185 percent up to 225 percent of the federal poverty level. As a family’s income increases, so does their child care cost share to the state. This puts families on a path to self-sufficiency and alleviates the child care cliff effect.
- Changing the definition for “infant and toddler” to include children age two weeks to three years, and for “preschool” to include children three years to school age. By changing the definitions, child care providers will receive a higher reimbursement rate.
- Creating the Child Care Challenge Fund within the Employer Innovation Fund, a matching grant program to help with the construction, renovation or remodeling of child care facilities.
Professional Licensing Reform
One-fourth of Iowans require a license to practice their chosen profession — the second highest rate in the nation. Strict licensing requirements do not necessarily result in better safety, but do disproportionately impact certain populations, including new Iowa residents, low-income individuals, and those with criminal convictions. These barriers also cost Iowa an estimated 48,000 jobs and $290 million. To prevent licenses from restricting employment opportunities, the Governor proposes the following:
- Adopting universal licensing recognition to allow professionals licensed in other states (for at least one year) to practice in Iowa if they are in good standing, pay applicable fees and meet all residency, testing and background check requirements.
- Waiving initial licensing fees for first-time applicants from families earning less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level.
- Creating a consistent standard so that when licensing entities review applicants with conviction records, they consider whether the circumstances of the crimes are directly related to the licensed profession, and provide a process for an individual with a criminal record to receive a predetermination of eligibility.
- Improving licensure oversight by creating a Review Commission on Licensure Standards that would subject boards and commissions that oversee professional licenses to a review every four years.