Branstad visits ICCC

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad recreated the signing of House File 604 Tuesday at Iowa Central Community College’s East Campus.

Approved in May, the bill provides “major education reform,” an increase in tuition grants for students in private colleges, and a “whole new future leadership program for pre-K through 12 education,” Branstad said.

HF 604 also provides funds to community colleges for work-force development.

“This is a very historic bill for the community college system,” said Dan Kinney, Iowa Central president.

Branstad lauded the passing of the bill.

“It was a great year for community colleges and I would say for all of education in the Iowa Legislature this year,” he said. “We’re going to see not only this significant funding for our community colleges, but also this will be the first time in 30 years, no increase in tuition at our state universities.”

He added, “I think it truly will go down as a watershed, historic year for education, and also work-force development.”

Without previous work-force funding, Kinney said, “Iowa Central today wouldn’t probably be what we’re sitting in today.”

“East Campus came out of a great issue to have,” he said. “We have two companies coming to town and not enough space on Iowa Central’s campus to do all their training. They both came to us and we knew they were going to need a lot of training, but there was no way of getting it done.”

With the funding provided by the bill, Kinney added, Iowa Central was also able this year to add a process technology degree to complement its bio-tech and manufacturing degrees, all degrees in demand by local employers. Already, 12 students have enrolled in the program for next fall.

“And that’s all due to the fund we’re receiving this year,” he said. “We would not have had the opportunity to start that new program if it wasn’t for that historic funding.”

Community colleges, Branstad said, play a significant role in “preparing people for the jobs of the future.”

“We’ve got good jobs but we can’t find people in the right field,” he said. “What we’re doing with this funding and what community colleges are going to be doing as a result of it, it’s going to help a lot of people … to get their GED, but also to get specific training and to become certified that they are career-ready for the jobs that are being made.”

With companies investing in Iowa, Branstad said, funding for work-force training is necessary.

“It’s here, on campuses like this, and other community colleges throughout the state, where we’re going to train today’s workers so they have the skills for the jobs of today and tomorrow,” he said.

Branstad said it is his goal to create 200,000 jobs over the next five years.

“In order to achieve that, we have to do a lot of upgrading of skills so that people have the skills for the jobs that are being created,” he said. “The only way we’re going to be able to keep those businesses or attract them is if we can show them we have a work force that has the skills or will have the skills to meet the jobs that they’re creating.”

HF 604, Branstad said, also provides $5 million for adult basic education.

“It’s the first time we’ve really done this in Iowa. It’s something the community college is going to play a key role in,” he said. “It will help an estimated 250,000 Iowans who presently don’t have a GED. We think this is going to make a real difference.”

Funding is also provided for the work-based learning intermediary network

“This network will prepare students for the work force by providing them with work-based learning opportunities with a focus on occupations related to science, technology, engineering and math,” he said. “These are the jobs of the future. These are the jobs that tend to pay better. These are the kinds of jobs you’re attracting more and more of to this area.”