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Officials Aim To Improve Iowa Manufacturing Shortfalls

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IOWA CITY, Iowa - Community colleges across the state are working together to improve Iowa's advanced manufacturing workforce, college officials announced Thursday. Through a new initiative with ACT Inc. employers at major manufacturing companies can test worker skills in an effort to learn more about their workforce. The colleges can use their business connections to help circulate testing, officials said.

"We're streamlined our curriculum, we've evaluated what the workforce skills need to be and then we're helping companies better understand what the specific skills are," said Robert Denson, president of Des Moines Area Community College.

In recent years a need to fill manufacturing jobs across the state has become evident, Denson said. Officials hope they can also use findings to better prepare students for manufacturing jobs.

"We have hundreds if not thousands of very good jobs open right now in Iowa, and those jobs are in what we call middle skill," said Denson. "More than high school, no more than two year degree, and that is exactly the market that community colleges train into."

"In response to a documented shortage of skilled workers in Iowa's advanced manufacturing sector, the 15 Iowa community colleges have formed a consortium know as the Iowa-Advanced Manufacturing (I-AM) to collaboratively build the training capacity necessary to meet industry demand, and arm Iowans with the skills they need to engage in Iowa's workforce," ACT Inc. and the colleges stated in a media packet distributed at a announcement ceremony Thursday.

The testing will be paid for through a $13 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor.

"We need to fill the skills gap so the students we turn out are at the right level," said Kirkwood Community College President Mick Starcevich. "That's what this is all about, if you grow the industries, you grow our economy, you grow our state."

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