Gov. Kim Reynolds Tuesday highlighted National Apprenticeship Week at a farm equipment dealer in Nevada that got state support to help develop a training program for mechanics.
Reynolds said registered apprenticeships in Iowa are outpacing larger states like Georgia and Arizona.
Iowa has about 750 active programs, while Georgia and Arizona each have fewer than 200. Wisconsin has more than 1,000 registered programs, according to U.S. Department of Labor statistics.
“It makes sense that registered apprenticeships have been so successful here because they are the quintessential win-win, and as Iowans, we always recognize a good deal,” Reynolds said.
Iowa’s unemployment rate has remained around 2.5 percent, and business groups say the state has a shortage of skilled workers that limits growth.
Earlier this year, lawmakers approved $1 million for grants to small- and medium-sized businesses to develop registered apprenticeships in high-demand occupations.
Van Wall Equipment CEO Mike Van Houweling said the grant and apprenticeship program are important for his growing business.
“We have a real need to continue to add skilled technicians to our team,” Van Houweling said. “In fact, today, if we could add 40 to 50 technicians, we would do it in a heartbeat. That’s a big number that’s very important to our business.”
Kenyon O’Brien, a Van Wall Equipment apprentice and community college student, said he did not know how he would pay for a four-year degree. Then he turned to a registered apprenticeship.
“I don’t have to worry about paying for school anymore, or worrying about a job,” O’Brien said. “That was all taken care of with this Van Wall apprenticeship program. So now I just focus on school and getting through it.”
O’Brien is one of Iowa’s more than 7,600 registered apprentices.
Reynolds is encouraging students, schools and businesses to consider getting involved in registered apprenticeships. In addition to the $1 million for some businesses to start apprenticeship programs, the state also has a $3 million fund to help existing programs.
As part of her focus on expanding the state’s workforce, Reynolds also invited business representatives to an event Wednesday at the Mitchellville women’s prison to educate them about hiring people with criminal convictions.
“We need workers,” Reynolds said. “And so [employers] are willing to look, and to take a chance and to do things differently. So it really is a good time to work together with business and industry and see how we can make it a win-win for everybody.”
The event ties in with Reynolds’ new committee that will put together recommendations for helping formerly incarcerated Iowans get jobs and successfully re-enter society. Iowa’s prisons provide some job training, but people with criminal records face many barriers to employment.
Reynolds said she wants employers to learn about the job training inmates are participating in. And she wants to hear the concerns employers have about hiring people with a criminal record and look at ways to address those.