Addressing the workforce challenge

Credit: A Corridor Business Journal Editorial, April 9-15, 2018 Edition

The Wall Street Journal last week described the monumental challenge Iowa and the Midwest has in getting jobs filled.

The Journal reports that the Midwest is the nation's only region where the number of job openings exceeds the number of unemployed persons. According to Labor Department data, if every unemployed person in the Midwest was placed into an open job, there would still be more than 180,000 unfilled positions. 

So how does the region and state begin to combat this seemingly insurmountable challenge? One of the most innovative and big-picture approaches comes from the Marion Economic Development Corporation's Community Promise initiative that starts engaging students in high school with companies and jobs right in their own community.

Community Promise capitalizes on career exposure and experiences that lead to career pursuit and promotes high demand careers through MEDCO's Job Profile database.

Working with high school counselors, business owners and community leaders, Community Promise helps students delve into career options early and examine them beyond just a title and paycheck. Importantly, the initiative educates both students and parents about required training, benefits received, and even advancement opportunities within local industry.

Counselors with the Kirkwood Workplace Learning Connection are then able to build a plan for every student who connects with a high-demand job in Marion through this effort.

Finally, the promise provides an opportunity for financial resources students need to pursue a specific local career through grants to fill financial gaps and support specialized training.

While this is a new initiative, it looks as promising as anything we’ve seen in the workforce development strategy area. It should be considered in other areas of the Corridor and state.