Recommendations released Oct. 17 by the Future Ready Iowa Alliance lay out a plan to enhance the skills of Iowa workers so that they can fill local job openings. The recommendations build on our bipartisan work over the past several years.

Iowa business leaders continually tell us that the No. 1 problem facing our economy is a shortage of skilled workers. In response, Senate Democrats have pushed for more skilled worker training, apprenticeships, internships and STEM learning to prepare students at all levels for their future in increasingly technical jobs, especially in our small towns and rural areas.

Unfortunately, the 2017 budget cut many of the efforts needed to accomplish the Future Ready goal of education or training beyond high school for 70 percent of Iowa’s workforce. That’s an additional 127,700 Iowans who need to earn post-secondary degrees and other credentials. Continued cuts will move Iowa in the wrong direction.

To be Future Ready, we must put MORE resources toward education and job training. Iowa business leaders, schools, communities and organizations have signaled they’re on board. They’re ready to commit their time, money and expertise to building prosperity throughout Iowa.

Future Ready Iowa recommendations include:

n Establishing scholarships and grants for Iowans preparing for high-demand jobs at Iowa colleges and universities.

n Better aligning support to help Iowans pursue college or career training. This could mean better access to child care or flexible class schedules.

n Expanding work-based learning for high-demand jobs, including apprenticeships, internships and career exploration through hands-on, real-world projects.

n Enhancing collaborations among businesses, schools and organizations so that workers, employers and communities get the most out of local and regional partnerships.

Iowa Sen. Rita Hart represents Clinton County and northern Scott County.

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