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Meeting tomorrow’s workforce challenges

Chronicle Guest View

January 10, 2012
Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

The electric power sector is facing an unprecedented workforce crisis in the next five years due to attrition and retirements. Replacing the workforce now will help ensure that valuable knowledge and experience is not lost as the workforce reaches retirement age. Iowa Valley has programs in place to deal with this need and meet tomorrow's utility workforce challenge.

A grant from Iowa Workforce Training and Economic Development funds a 10-week Utility Technician program through Iowa Valley Continuing Education. Students completing the training receive knowledge related to job basics, math, print reading, pole climbing, gas mechanic, mechanical drives, CDL, safety, electricity, welding and meter reading.

Alliant Energy has been a key partner in this training, offering technical assistance, experienced trainers and the use of training equipment and their training facility. The first two rounds of this training has shown a 75 percent placement rate in jobs related to the training (using the skills obtained) with an average starting wage of $15.14. Three more sessions of this program will be offered in 2012.

Another grant through the Department of Energy is providing funds for additional education in the energy industry. The development of a one-year Utility Technician diploma program is expected to launch in the fall of 2012. Students will begin this program taking general knowledge courses relevant to the utility industry. From there they will choose from three tracks: electrical, mechanical drives, and gas mechanic. Each of these tracks will give students more specific knowledge in that area. This grant is also providing for the development of an online apprenticeship program for Alliant Energy, enabling Alliant Energy to increase the number of employees in their apprenticeship program.

Expert advice, assistance and the sharing of knowledge is vital to the success of these programs. Iowa Valley Community College District, in partnership with Alliant Energy, MidAmerican Energy, ITC Midwest, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, municipalities, RECs, and community leaders, is working to address tomorrow's workforce needs while building student interest in the utility industry.

These utility technician programs are administered by Deb Hawks, Director Business & Industry Training, and Lori Wildman, Coordinator for the Utility Technician Program. For information on enrolling in the 10-week Utility Technician program, contact Wildman at 641-844-6987. For additional information on any of the other programs, call 800-284-4823.



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