The region served by Iowa Lakes Community College will benefit from a grant announced Wednesday by the United States Department of Labor.
The statewide Iowa Community College initiative is known as Iowa-Advanced Manufacturing (I-AM): A Talent Success Strategy for the 21st Century Workforce. The grant is for $12,951,165 for the entire state.
The I-AM group includes all 15 Iowa community colleges. They will collaboratively build training capacity at their colleges by developing and awarding certificates (non-credit and credit), diplomas and associate degrees. Those certificates, diplomas and degrees are in the following signature programs: welding, machining, industrial maintenance, industrial automation, manufacturing technology, robotics and transportation and logistics.
"We are pleased to be part of the consortium of community colleges in Iowa that was awarded the Trade Adjustment Assistance funds," said Valerie Newhouse, president of Iowa Lakes Community College. "The community colleges in Iowa partnered in an unprecedented manner in the research and development of this proposal and based the application on the needs of the manufacturing industry in the state of Iowa."
The content of these programs uses already established standards.
"The statewide initiative is based on the skill sets established by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM)," Newhouse said. "The NAM Skills Certification System is based on the National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC) and also includes other certifications relating to advanced manufacturing and workforce readiness."
It is estimated that more than 3,000 individuals across the state of Iowa will be given the opportunity to earn a college credential and industry-recognized certifications in a shortened time frame, making them eligible for high-demand, high-wage employment opportunities and launching them on a career pathway in advanced manufacturing.
The I-AM consortium is working directly with over 35 of Iowa's manufacturers and the Iowa Association of Business and Industry to ensure that the I-AM initiative addresses and meets the skill needs of the manufacturing industry.
The grant focuses on 'stackable skills certification' specific to the industry along with expansion of needs particular to each area of the state.
"The attractive feature of stackable skills certification programs is that it ensures the curriculum aligns with industry needs," said Mark Gruwell, executive dean of instruction and development. "Graduates who have received industry certificates enhance their marketability."
While the effort was definitely a statewide endeavor, several Iowa Lakes employees put time into the project.
"I would like to extend my appreciation to Iowa Lakes employees, Abigail Sedlacek, grant writer; Steve Farnsworth, welding instructor and Emily Gottsche, welding assistant, for helping with the research for this grant," Newhouse said. "We also appreciate the role the Des Moines Area Community College has played in taking the lead in compiling the data from the various community colleges as well as serving as the fiscal agent for this funding."
The award to the I-AM consortium is part of the Department of Labor's announcement of $500 million in grant awards nationwide for the second round of the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training program.