Iowan Joe Gomez completed an apprenticeship in culinary arts and now owns a restaurant.
As Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds and I travel around all 99 Iowa counties each year, we are consistently reminded of a key challenge that employers face in our state. Businesses ask: How will we grow our business if we can’t find individuals with the right skills? How can we serve our customers if we don’t have the people who are qualified to deliver the product and quality that our customers demand? How can we empower Iowans with the skills needed to help our business compete in dynamic, global economy?
These are all important questions that will need to be addressed for our state’s economy to continue to grow and for Iowans to have rewarding careers. To meet these needs, we have set an ambitious goal in Iowa to make sure 70 percent of our workforce has education or training beyond high school by the year 2025. That includes registered apprenticeships, two- and four-year degrees, and other credentials and experiences that are valued by employers.
Our goal is based on a projection by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce that 68 percent of Iowa jobs will require education or training beyond high school by 2025, so we’re aiming even higher. This goal is the focus of a major initiative we are calling Future Ready Iowa.
I believe that registered apprenticeships are a key answer to a lot of these important questions. That is why I am encouraged by the partnership between employers, the states (including Iowa), and the federal government to nurture the apprenticeship ecosystem in our nation. Individuals can gain skills through a nationally recognized certification while earning income and even more importantly, often avoiding mountains of crushing debt. An apprentice can also earn college credit at many two- and four-year educational institutions in Iowa through the Registered Apprenticeship College Consortium.
And credentials help: In May 2014, I proposed − and the Iowa legislature passed with broad bipartisan support − the Iowa Apprenticeship and Job Training Act, tripling our state’s investment in registered apprenticeship from $1 to $3 million dollars. The Iowa Apprenticeship Program increases the number of registered apprentices in Iowa by providing training grants to registered programs across numerous industries in over 1,000 occupations — from construction to health care to advanced manufacturing to transportation to energy to hospitality to culinary arts and even beer brewing.
In Iowa, we are encouraged by the support for registered apprenticeships from both unions and non-union organizations alike. With 32 percent growth, Iowa was also one of 14 states that expanded registered apprenticeship by over 20 percent in fiscal year 2015. This tremendous growth underscores Iowa’s national leadership in registered apprenticeships.
I’m proud to be the first governor in the nation to become an ApprenticeshipUSA LEADER and I’m proud to advocate for apprenticeships alongside Secretary Perez. Iowa’s apprenticeship champions − from employers to educators to workforce leaders to economic development leaders to corrections officials − are always exploring ways to expand registered apprenticeships in our state.
In my January 2016 Condition of the State Address, I highlighted the power of apprenticeships for one Iowan and his family in Davenport, Iowa. Joe Gomez earned college credit while gaining valuable skills through Eastern Iowa Community College’s Registered Apprenticeship Culinary Arts program. Today he owns and operates a restaurant in Davenport. This is exactly the type of experience we want to replicate. I believe that registered apprenticeships are a key tool in our toolkit to grow Iowa’s talent pipeline and achieve our Future Ready Iowa goal.
Terry Branstad is the governor of Iowa.