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Not Enough Jobs for Highly Skilled Workers in Iowa

Liesl Eathington, Iowa State University

Research out of Iowa State University shows Iowa is losing its most highly educated workers because there aren’t enough jobs for them here. The situation, however, is slowly changing.

The ISU study looks into how Iowa stacks up against the rest of the nation in attracting and keeping highly skilled, college-educated workers. It finds the state’s economy is still creating jobs for people with high school degrees, but falls behind the national average in positions requiring technical savvy or problem solving skills. Economist Dave Swenson, who co-authored the report, sees an upside for the future.

“Iowa’s economy is becoming much more like the national average and because it’s becoming much more like the national average, it’s going to incrementally demand more high-skilled and higher educated workers,” he says.

For now, Swenson says, Iowa’s manufacturing and agricultural bases can’t use all of the skilled workers being produced by the state’s colleges and universities. He adds the situation may be changing as Iowa’s economy begins to move slowly toward the national average for jobs requiring higher educations.

“The brain drain we’ve continuously suffered here in Iowa because our economy can’t use those workers is going to ebb a little bit and we’re going to be able to absorb more of that skilled talent,” he says.

Swenson says Iowa’s strong banking and finance sectors offer positions for college graduates. But the state’s manufacturing and agricultural bases can’t use all of these highly trained workers.