Skills training offers Iowans pathway to success, prosperity

Rep. Cindy Axne represents Iowa's Third Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. She can be reached at 202-225-5476.

Skills and career training programs are an important pathway for connecting Iowans with high-demand, good-paying jobs.

These programs can open doors to in-demand, exciting careers that don’t require a four-year degree or mountains of student debt.

In Congress, I’ve pushed to see more support for this pathway for Iowans and more resources for the federal programs that back these career options locally.

I’m proud to share that last week I helped advance legislation that would increase funding for job skills training projects offered through the U.S. Department of Labor.

These are investments into the American worker, which were part of nine funding bills the House passed last week. These bills fund federal programs for the next fiscal year and include $3.1 billion for grants from the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, $1.83 billion for Job Corps and $285 million for Registered Apprenticeships.

The bill we passed also includes an amendment I wrote that increases grant funding for community colleges that offer career skills training programs specifically to help Iowans who have been laid off or otherwise displaced from an old job through no fault of their own.

The reason I advocate for these programs in Washington is because I see them working for folks across Iowa’s Third Congressional District.

In Creston, for example, Southwestern Community College (SWCC) offers a diploma in building trades and carpentry. As part of their education, students will build a residential home in Creston, receive industry-level education and certification, classroom training in accounting, business administration and much more.

When you consider that in March of this year alone, the construction industry added 100,000 new jobs, programs like SWCC’s doesn’t just crack open a new door, it can help kick it wide open.

In fact, according to Associated Builders and Contractors, the construction industry has added nearly 1 million new jobs since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic — and these jobs could continue to be in demand. Dodge and Demand Analytics predicts an 8% increase in construction in 2022.

There are other career and skills training opportunities offered by our community colleges right here in Iowa’s Third Congressional District as well.

Des Moines Area Community College offers a certificate in biotechnology that allows graduates to get jobs as laboratory technicians — a fast-growing and in-demand job in labs across the Midwest.

Iowa Western Community College in Council Bluffs offers degree and certificate programs in nursing, a career whose value and service were already well known before a global pandemic reminded us all how vital our health care workers are.

My goal is to provide Iowans with even more pathways like these to earn a dignified living, and through smart investments made possible by amendments like mine, we can move closer to making that a reality.

I have also been working to ensure members of the National Guard and Reserve who are leaving military service have the skills they need to succeed in civilian life.

Currently, the U.S. Department of Defense connects departing active duty servicemembers to in-demand skills training and prospective employers who are ready to hire through their SkillBridge program.

SkillBridge is a wonderful example of the success we can have when our public sector and private businesses work together. Employers like Google, Amazon and some of our nation’s largest skilled trade unions cover the costs of training new veterans and connecting them to highly skilled, in-demand civilian jobs after their service.

My Transition for Success Act, which I recently re-introduced, would expand access to the SkillBridge program by allowing all National Guard and Reserve servicemembers to participate in the program when they depart military service, regardless if they are on active duty status or not.

The program has already been successful for veterans across the country, and we need to offer the same respect and this same option to those who have served our country in a reservist role or as members of the National Guard.

As we look to the future, we need to make sure that all Iowans have the chance to make a decent living right here at home and that they have the skills they need to fill the in-demand jobs of tomorrow.

Robust investments like these are not only key to maintaining our communities, but they will set up our next generation for success.

Rep. Cindy Axne of West Des Moines represents Iowa’s Third Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. She can be reached at 202-225-5476.


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