"If we had someone come to Emmetsburg that would like to locate here, with the potential of hiring maybe 150 people, I think they'd come and take a survey that would tell you, when they were done, that we don't have the work force. That's something we need to address," said Iowa Senate President Jack Kibbie.
Kibbie has been working on a bill to establish a new Skilled Workforce Shortage Tuition Grant. He will address that, and other issues, at a Legislators Town Hall Meeting this Saturday, Feb. 11, at the Emmetsburg Chamber and Welcome Center.
Hosted by Emmetsburg Chamber of Commerce and Palo Alto County Farm Bureau, the meeting is open to the public at 8:30 a.m. Sen. Kibbie will be joined by Rep. John Wittneben.
"We've got a huge shortage of skilled work force," said Kibbie. "Right now they tell me that there's approximately 3,000 unfilled jobs in Iowa because of the shortage of skills."
Kibbie says that a lot of the jobs have to do with the ag economy and ag manufacturing.
After talking with the Des Moines Partnership group, Kibbie said, "We could put 500 welders to work tomorrow. The president of Des Moines Area Community College told me that my number was only halfway there, that we could put 1,000 welders in the state."
In addition to a shortage of skilled workers in agriculture related jobs, Kibbie says there is about as big a shortage with IT?people, as well as in health care.
"A lot of these are one year programs," said Kibbie. "The problem that the community colleges have, they don't have the funding to pay enough to get instructors, to pull instructors away from business. That's something else that needs to be addressed."
Kibbie stated, "I'm introducing this bill that is to deal with the shortage of skilled work force. So far it's being received really well."
This bill establishes a new Skilled Workforce Shortage Tuition Grant program of $20 million to be administered by the College Student Aid Commission. The bill requires the Department of Workforce Development to identify industries in areas experiencing worker shortages, on a quarterly basis.
The bill establishes a specific appropriation of $2 million (out of the total $20 million appropriated in the bill)?for the GAP?tuition assistance program for community colleges. The bill also establishes criteria for receipt of the new Skilled Workforce Shortage Tuition Grant.
"I'm starting out pretty boldly with $20 million a year for five years and that will be administered by the Iowa Student Aid Commission in conjunction with Iowa Workforce," said Kibbie. "It will be done on a regional basis, because the shortages are regional. The purpose of it is to buy down tuition and fees, up to half."
Kibbie noted that employers cannot hire some of the unemployed people because they are not skilled.
"We have to fill that gap," said Kibbie. "In the '80s, during the farm crisis, people left Emmetsburg. They went where there were jobs. Today, we've got the jobs but not the skilled workforce."
When Kibbie talks about filling the gap, he is referring to the GAP program, passed last year - but not funded, that provides tuition assistance to need-based eligible applicants enrolled in certificate programs. These non-credit certificate programs are not eligible for most financial aid, hence the program that "fills the gap."
Under this bill, a skilled workforce shortage tuition grant may be awarded to an Iowa resident in a vocational-technical or career option program, who has a financial need.
Sen. Kibbie will offer an update on the bill at the Saturday morning Town Hall meeting in Emmetsburg.