Collaboration is key to preparing students for college and careers
One of the most important goals of our educational system is to prepare students for college and careers. Today’s knowledge-based economy requires not only academic preparation, but acquisition of employability and technical skills needed for high-demand careers in some of our fastest-growing fields.
Expanding access to real-world experiences, which include work-based learning, is critical to modernizing how we work and learn, and further improving our quality of life in Iowa. Bringing awareness to this work and expanding access to high-quality programs across the state is a top priority that wouldn’t be possible without the strong support and commitment from community, education and business leaders.
I had the privilege of being in Forest City this week for the groundbreaking of a new regional center that will be the first of its kind to serve students in North Central Iowa. With generous support from the Hanson Family Foundation, North Iowa Area Community College (NIACC), business and industry leaders, the city of Forest City, and the North Iowa, Lake Mills, Forest City and Garner-Hayfield-Ventura school districts worked together to expand opportunities for rural Iowa students.
Through this partnership, more students will have access to high-demand career pathways in fields such as health care, advanced manufacturing, construction and information technology where they can earn college credit and gain the skills needed for high-demand careers with local employers in their home communities.
This public-private partnership serves as a model for expanding opportunities across the state and is the first to be awarded a competitive grant through the state’s new Career Academy Incentive Fund. At least $1 million will be awarded annually to support career academy partnerships between community colleges, school districts, business and industry, Regional Planning Partnerships, area education agencies and other partners.
The John V. Hanson Career Center will join 19 such regional centers in operation across the state where students can explore possible careers and, in many cases, earn industry credentials and certifications. With these stackable credentials, students can go right into work and be highly marketable, or have a good foundation to succeed in postsecondary education, all of which support the state’s Future Ready Iowa initiative to have 70 percent of Iowans with education or training beyond high school by 2025.
Registered Apprenticeship programs in our high schools are also growing and offer students another path toward reaching their educational goals. National Apprenticeship Week, Nov. 8-14, is the perfect opportunity to highlight these programs where students not only get on-the-job training, but also a paycheck for their work. Student apprentices in these programs graduate with a high school diploma and a national portable credential in areas such as welding, certified nursing assistant, machinist, computer support specialist, veterinary/lab animal technician, among others, once they complete the registered apprenticeship program.
Iowa’s programs are growing, adapting and preparing students for high-demand careers like never before. And students have more opportunities and access to work-based learning through the efforts of work-based learning coordinators in our schools, the Iowa Intermediary network, STEM Best, career and technical student organizations and the Iowa Clearinghouse for Work-Based Learning.
While students now have more choices with clear pathways aligned to regional workforce needs, our work is far from done. We have an unprecedented opportunity to expand and grow real-world experiences and develop more connections between education and employers to strengthen our communities and set students up for success.
This collaborative work represents a promising future for Iowa students and will grow a strong talent pipeline that Iowa companies need to grow, innovate and prosper.