October 24, 2016 by Lynsi Pasutti
The 2016 Employer Educator Summit was held at the Wild Rose Casino in Jefferson on Thursday, October 13th, made possible through the partnerships of Western Iowa Advantage, IowaWORKS and Employers Council of Western Iowa. In total, 225 employers, educators, community leaders and students attended this year’s summit:
The summit was sports-themed, with “What is Your Game Plan?” as the tagline for the event and speaker topics followed suit. Shirley Phillips, Director of Western Iowa Tourism and long-time advocate for education and economic development issues, was the Master of Ceremonies and introduced the quest speakers.
Evan Blakley, Executive Director of the Chamber and Development Council of Crawford County kicked off the event with a warm welcome and set the stage for the discussion: “So often, we hear politicians say, “we need to create more jobs,” but what about all the great jobs we need filled in Iowa?”
Senator Bill Dotzler gave a “Pep Talk” to motivate everyone to continue to make Iowa a great state to live and work in. He also shared information on Enhance Iowa.
Iowa Workforce Development Director Beth Townsend shared workforce trends and unemployment rates, illustrating the need to build our future workforce through certification programs and skill-based education programs. By 2025, 68% of Iowa’s jobs will require more than a high school diploma. With nearly 600,000 Boomers estimated to retire in the next five years, engaging Millenials to transition into the workforce with the needed skills will be key. She explained the “Game Plan” of the Future Ready Iowa Initiative and shared how she believes it will be a successful program with “all hands on deck” to make it happen.
Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds echoed Director Townsend’s message that it is going to take all of us working together to innovate best practices in order to keep Iowa growing. She shared a “Play by Play” of a number of initiatives acting as resources for businesses and educators across the state aiming to improve Iowa’s workforce, including Home Base Iowa, the Iowa Student Internship Program, and the Governor’s STEM Council. She was proud to announce that STEM related careers are growing three times faster than non-STEM related careers.
Two high school programs were featured during the Summit: the Carroll High School STEM Institute and Rocket Manufacturing. Kent Muyskens, a 31-year veteran of the teaching profession, shared his “1st Down” success story of starting the Carroll High School STEM Institute, a school within a school. His recommendation to the audience for building community partnerships is just to ask. For those looking to connect with Kent, he provided two survey links to gather contact information: for businesses: http://bit.ly/2dLY501 and for educators: http://bit.ly/2ev8ezL
Todd Vander Velde, the Industrial Technology Instructor at Rock Valley High School, where he has been teaching for 21 years, brought four of his students along to share their “Touch Down” experiences with Rocket Manufacturing, a student-led business within the school that started in 2015, providing students with 21st Century Skills and made possible through partnerships with area businesses. Students learn to design and weld, as well as develop communication, marketing, and sales skills.
Lisa Smith, a Career Planner for the Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act and a partner of IowaWORKS, presented a “Replay” of additional success stories involving area businesses and schools working together over the past year:
Two county leaders were presented with plaques by the Lt. Governor for achieving Skilled Iowa Community Designations. Accepting the awards for Sac County and Greene County respectively, were Brandy Ripley, Executive Director of Sac Economic and Tourism Development, and Ken Paxton, Executive Director of Greene County Development Corporation.
Round table discussions involved brainstorming and collaborating with business partners and education representatives to encourage a skilled workforce for the region. Business and education will need to cooperate so the region can successfully boast an abundant, well-trained workforce and position itself for growth, benefiting workers, employers and their communities
In closing, Evan Blakley challenged attendees to pledge to continue to develop our future workforce.
I hereby pledge to be a leader in workforce growth and skill-building in my community and my organization. I will build networks and communication between my organization and other educators and employers in the area, in the efforts of collaboration toward growing the size and capability of our workforce. I pledge to change the discussion in my community and across the world to highlight the many job opportunities, exciting companies and advantages of working in Iowa. I will encourage Iowa’s future workforce (our students) to stay in Iowa and build a successful career here. I will use my words and actions to create a welcoming atmosphere for graduates. I will celebrate Iowa as an unmatched home for the skilled and career-minded. I will provide a balanced vision of success that includes the trades and positions Iowa companies for hiring today and in the future.
Enhance Iowa: http://www.enhanceiowa.com/