Over 200 employers and educators from across the eight county region of Western Iowa Advantage (WIAD) met at the Templeton Center in Templeton on Thursday, September 17th to help shape the workforce of tomorrow during the 2015 Employer Educator Summit.
Speakers shared their experiences and aimed to inspire those at the Summit to find ways to work together to connect students, as the future workforce, to our local businesses, especially those that represent the technical fields that are in need of skilled workers. Keynote speaker, Debi Durham, Director of the Iowa Economic Development Authority, discussed workforce issues and several business incentives. Her enthusiasm set the tone, stating "Iowa's businesses are creating high quality jobs so it is important that we prepare the groundwork with our students so they are equipped with skills that are in demand by today's businesses."
Mirroring the need for collaboration, the Summit was well-balanced with presentations from educators, both at the high school and college level, business owners, workforce development professionals, and economic developers. Jim Ober of Scranton Manufacturing, Scranton, and Scott Winey of Bluespace Creative, Denison, encouraged everyone to be a part of the solution as they described the uniqueness of their businesses and how they attract skilled employees.
Round table discussions allowed casual conversation across industries, reflection on the presentations, and brainstorming to take place. A working lunch, conducted by Carol Eckels of the HR Team at Greater Regional Medical Center (and a former specialist of IowaWORKS in Creston), provided a light-hearted demonstration of the five distinct generations currently in the workforce, each with their own communication styles and career motivations.
Michelle Hill, Director of APEX, Waukee's Aspiring Professional Experience program, shared their success of redefining the "senior" experience for their students, collaborating with area businesses to provide hands-on career exploration for their high school students. Hill offered the APEX model as one option, but encouraged those at the Summit to be creative in developing solutions, big or small, for engaging inspired students and dynamic local businesses, with the help of passionate teachers.
Topics at this year's Employer Educator Summit will continue to be relevant for years to come. Today's economy no longer guarantees financial success for those with university degrees. It is estimated that by 2018, 57% of jobs will require technical skills, while 33% will require a four-year degree and only 10% of jobs will be unskilled. Meanwhile, the average age of a tradesperson is 56--who will fill their shoes when they retire in the next 5-15 years?
Thank you to all those that attended this year's Summit!
A recording of the Employer Educator Summit will soon be available.