Sparking student interest in one of Iowa’s thriving industries
Though manufacturing jobs across the country and in Iowa have become more technical, employers say the workforce hasn’t kept up, creating a skills gap where good-paying, in-demand jobs go unfilled.
To build awareness of this growing field and the job opportunities available, school districts, employers and community colleges across the state are participating in Manufacturing Day on Friday, Oct. 5. It is an annual celebration of modern manufacturing where manufacturers invite their communities to their facilities to educate them about career opportunities and improve public perceptions of manufacturing. More than 70 events are being held throughout Iowa this month.
Manufacturing Day events connect business and industry with future generations and spark student interest in obtaining the relevant skills needed to thrive in this growing field. It is also an opportunity for students to explore future educational and career options.
Community colleges, like Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC), participate to showcase programs in applied engineering, electronics, robotics, civil engineering, tool and die, welding, advanced manufacturing, and CAD technology. The event allows students to get a first-hand look at the wide range of career opportunities in Iowa’s growing manufacturing industry.
“Iowa manufacturers are currently experiencing a worker shortage in many of these areas,” said Amy Steenhoek, the work-based learning coordinator for DMACC’s Career Discovery Network.
The Career Discovery Network is part of the Iowa Work-Based Learning Intermediary Network, a network of 15 regional networks that build relationships within the education system and regional businesses to provide opportunities for students to experience different careers. Each of the individual networks provides core services to school districts in their respective regions, which may include finding guest speakers, holding career and industry fairs, scheduling job shadowing experiences, coordinating student internships and teacher externships, offering teacher licensure renewal opportunities, and taking students and teachers on industry tours.
In addition to visiting the DMACC Ankeny campus and participating in hands-on activities to give students a taste of engineering technology and manufacturing programs, they will also tour local manufacturing businesses, including Accumold, John Deere, EFCO and the Baker Group.
“It is important to get more students in the pipeline and for them to understand the great career opportunities that exist within these areas,” Steenhoek said. “Often students, parents and educators are unaware that an associate degree or certificate in one of these high-demand areas will lead to multiple career opportunities that provide very good wages with companies in their communities and surrounding areas.”
Those interested in participating can find events and register to attend on the Manufacturing Day website. In addition, Elevate Iowa, a coalition of all 15 Iowa community colleges, the Iowa Association of Business and Industry, the private manufacturing sector, and the state of Iowa promoting careers and educational pathways in advanced manufacturing, provides educational resources for teachers and students on its website.