Since the spikes of unemployment at the early onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Iowa has steadily made gains back to low unemployment levels. Unfortunately, businesses across the state have now seen pre-2020 workforce shortages that were exacerbated over the last 18 months. We encourage policy makers to review decisions under a broad lens of addressing these shortages. Growth in population is interconnected and complicated but without positive growth the state will be impacted in the ability to expand economically.
Talent Development & Attraction
The ambitious goal of growing Iowa's population at an accelerated pace will require a variety of strategies that include looking for opportunities to:
Continue to make Iowa a welcoming environment that is inclusive of a broad diversity of people;
Ensure state workforce and economic development programs have the ability to address the most pressing employee needs like child-care and student debt;
Incentivize and develop opportunities for former Iowans to return;
Retain more Iowans from our community colleges, private colleges and universities, and the Regents institutions with potential tools to encourage their graduates to become lifelong Iowans;
Address disparities within public support systems to avoid a "cliff effect" that acts as a disincentive for potential employees;
Reintegrate Iowans into the work force who deserve a second chance including fully supporting the Governor's FOCUS Committee on Criminal Justice as it balances the needs of the new employee and their future employer;
Attract new Americans by pushing for a uniform immigration system across all states to vet international talent and policies that welcome those new Americans to Iowa.
The Alliance will continue to push for full funding of the Future Ready Iowa initiative and continued support of its strategic objective to "build Iowa's talent pipeline."
We also strongly support programs and training opportunities such as the Iowa Industrial New Jobs Training Program (260E) and the Iowa Jobs Training Program (260F), and Iowa's Registered Apprenticeship Programs, as these programs offer direct access to skilled training for employers. These programs expand Iowa's workforce through new employee training, increasing employee skillsets, and improving productivity for employers. In addition, we support conversations about student loan repayment strategies
for Iowans with post-secondary degrees and addressing lapses in the provision of child-care
in our state.
More important than ever is supporting programs that provide resources to communities to create attractive places for people to live and work including developing quality of life projects that leverage local communities' assets. Community placemaking projects and recreational opportunities are vital components of Iowa's workforce attraction and retention strategy. All across the state, each community offers something different that can be enhanced to appeal to the current or future workforce. ICA supports partnerships between the state and local communities through sustainable and permanent funding sources and the continued funding for programs to do this such as the Community Attraction and Tourism grant program and the Iowa Mainstreet grant program. These regional efforts see the state as a partner in the development of these projects that need additional resources as well as policy to provide certainty in regional coordination for these projects. Ending the fiscal year with over a $1 billion surplus offers an opportunity to make one-time investments in these types of projects which lead to positive revenue growth for state and local budgets.
Placemaking includes supporting the arts and humanities whose economic impact may not be direct. Live music and public art can create local inertia that is attractive to grow local economies and appeal to a broader workforce.
ICA also supports Iowa's Water and Land Legacy (IWILL) to include resources for regionally transformative quality of life projects and while addressing tax disparities that impact our overall tax climate. We support communities across the state as they develop large scale quality of life projects to attract talent and need the state's support in addressing our tax disparities that act as an automatic denial for outside investment.
Preparing Iowa's future workforce means providing a quality education that readies high school graduates for a four-year college, community college, or a vocational training course - all without need for academic remediation - remains a top priority for ICA. This will require suﬃcient funding for schools; a continued emphasis on STEM; continued adherence to the Iowa Core and a rigorous assessment tool; and additional reforms to elevate Iowa's student achievement.
ICA supports action on K-12 funding that allows schools to certify their budgets on time, is equitable across the range of Iowa's diverse school districts and is at a level that is both appropriate and sustainable.
As the state addresses the child-care needs of employees, we support a review for resources and provision of pre-school programs to ensure children are provided early opportunities and a strong foundation for lifelong learning. This is in tandem with reviewing innovative methods for deployment of child-care.
ICA encourages all levels of education - Pre-K–12, community colleges, public and private colleges and universities - to understand the needs of the employment marketplace to ensure workforce-ready graduates. There should be a conscious pursuit of alignment, coordination, and collaboration between business, government, and educational institutions to oﬀer seamless opportunities that best meet the needs of Iowa's students and workplaces. ICA supports and values robust vocational and higher education programs that further develop a reliable talent pipeline.