Our Iowa Valley Community College District (IVCCD) leadership team spent time with each of our area legislators prior to the election asking them to articulate what they viewed as the most pressing issues needing to be addressed in the next legislative session. Without fail, we heard that the state’s budget, the economy, and putting Iowans back to work in high skill - high wage jobs would be paramount. Most would undoubtedly agree with their assessment; however, we cited a problem in achieving these goals.
The recruitment of high skill / high wage business and industry to Iowa is directly associated with our ability to tout that we have a highly educated and skilled workforce population to fill the jobs being created. After conducting a considerable amount of research on this matter, we presented the candidates with the simple truth – if we are going to provide a high skill / high wage pool of applicants for these future jobs, then we must first confront the issue of retraining and educating thousands of dislocated underprepared workers. According to statistics from the State Data Center, nearly 20 percent of individuals 25 and older in the IVCCD service area do not have a high school diploma. More than 4600 individuals in Marshall County alone have an educational level of less than a high school diploma. This information is staggering given the Bureau of Labor projects that nearly 60% of job openings in the United States from now through 2016 will require some postsecondary education.
Community colleges often are the access point for education in a town and can serve as a catalyst for economic development. As part of IVCCD’s vision and mission, we stand ready to tackle the assignment of educating and retraining Iowa’s workforce. Regardless of their political affiliations, we can only hope that our elected officials can work together and demonstrate bi-partisan support for Iowa’s education system, and mutually agree that a well-educated society benefits all of us.
Editor’s Note: Christopher Duree, Ph.D. is the Chancellor of Iowa Valley Community College District that includes the units of Iowa Valley Continuing Education, Marshalltown Community College, Ellsworth Community College, and Iowa Valley Community College Grinnell.