Innovative policies help boost Iowa’s economy

Policies that help strengthen Iowa’s economy should be a top priority for state government. With that it mind, Gov. Terry Branstad launched the Skilled Iowa initiative nearly a year ago. According to a statement issued by state officials on June 11, 2011, the goal is “to provide assurances to employers, and potential employers, that local Iowa work forces have the skills to fill job openings.”

Teresa Wahlert, director of Iowa Workforce Development, recently provided an update to The Messenger’s editorial board about two important parts of the Skilled Iowa project – a skills certification program for job-seekers and a new type of internship option for people who are unemployed.

Of particular significance is our state’s participation in a national certification system through which Iowans can document their skill levels and earn a National Career Readiness Certificate.

The NCRT program tests an individual’s prowess in applied mathematics, reading for content and locating information. These are skills that research has shown are much in demand for a wide array of jobs. Job applicants who can point to tangible evidence that they have the requisite skills have better success in landing employment than those without such certification. This new testing option helps address this credentialing need.

Iowa Workforce Development has the NCRT testing system up and running. The response by employers has been impressive. Many are already giving increased consideration to applicants who have become certified.

A second IWD initiative gives some people receiving unemployment compensation an opportunity to complete a training internship with an Iowa employer. Since the individuals selected for this project continue to receive unemployment compensation during the internship, the company providing the training does not pay a salary to them. The end result is that participants gain skills that can make them more employable. In some cases the employer also discovers that the intern is right for a job that already exists and is hired. When that occurs, everybody wins.

Iowa’s economy can’t grow if there aren’t people in the work force with the skills employers need or employers have difficulty finding them. Skilled Iowa is helping demonstrate that Iowa has talented people available to fill the jobs that already exist or may be created here. It is also helping the marketplace function more efficiently by making it easier for qualified workers and employers with job openings to find one another.

The Messenger applauds the governor for championing this exciting initiative and Wahlert for her important leadership in making it an operational success.