Workforce Training Prioritized in the Iowa Lakes Corridor

2 Feb 2023

Blog, Workforce, Workforce Development, Iowa Workforce Development, Future Ready Iowa, Partnerships, Success Stories

Workforce. A word the Iowa Lakes Corridor staff hears every day. Sometimes it’s a kind comment on the dependable and hard-working employees our region has. But many times in the last few years, the comment has been “How do we increase our workforce?” Businesses looking to expand or locate here want to know how they can employ the necessary number of people to accomplish their goals.

There are many factors that play into recruiting workforce: community development and quality of life, housing, employment opportunities, etc. The Corridor team works in all of these areas, but one priority we have is Workforce Training opportunities.

Through partnerships with educators, employers and other organizations, programming and facilitation of training opportunities and exposing students to the trades, the Corridor acts as a resource center and connector for Workforce Training. One program the organization is excited to begin is a Build My Future event for the region in 2023 to connect students with employers and showcase hands-on activities to expose students to various career opportunities.

Success Story: Midwestern Mechanical, Inc.

Midwestern Mechanical has earned a solid reputation for providing superior craftsmanship, design and service in the four-state area. The company has been proudly serving Spencer, Iowa and the surrounding communities since 1998, starting with only five employees and growing to over 80 in the Spencer location. They’ve built a reputation on guiding and instructing employees to be the most qualified, experience people in the industry. In 2009, Midwestern started a federally accredited in-house apprenticeship program for Plumbing and HVAC that provides classroom curriculum alongside lab time and on-the-job training.

Jacob Elsbecker is a 4th-year apprentice with Midwestern, and he is proof that the apprenticeship program is providing employees the tools required to become the best in the industry. In the Spring of 2022, Elsbecker competed in the regional Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors plumbing and HVAC apprentice contest in Rapid City, (SD) and took 1st place to move on to the National Competition in Charlotte, NC in the Fall of 2022. At this competition, he competed against 18 plumbers from across the Nation and received 1st place.

The motto at Midwestern Mechanical is “Performance with Pride,” and that is what Elsbecker showcased to win that competition to become the Number 1 Plumbing Apprentice in the Nation. He takes pride in the tasks he is given, no matter how challenging they may be, and accomplishes them to the highest standard.


Partnerships, Programs & Resources

Available in the Corridor region are a multitude of resources and programs to assist with Workforce Development and Training. The Corridor works closely with Iowa Workforce Development, CIRAS, Iowa Lakes Community College and Iowa Central Community College, local school systems and employers to help meet workforce needs in the region.

Local school systems have programs including Extended Career Experiences, Career Days, Workplace Visits, No Boundaries, J-Terms, Apprenticeships and Teacher Externships.

Future Ready Iowa is a statewide initiative to build Iowa’s talent pipeline and has the goal of 70% of Iowans with education and training beyond high school by 2025. Through this program, there are multiple opportunities for employers to get support for workforce training and development initiatives:

  • Registered Apprenticeship Program: This program connects Educators, Employers, and Apprentices. Employers can get support to develop a Registered Apprenticeship Program to recruit, train and retain workers to fit their needs. Educators have the opportunity to create an alternative path toward helping students reach their educational goals. Apprentices can start learning and earning from day one as they get a customized and supportive path to becoming successful in the career of their choosing.
  • Employer Innovation Fund: Grant opportunities for employers to carry out creative solutions to address local workforce issues and develop regional workforce talent pools.
  • Last-Dollar Scholarship: This innovative program available at Iowa Lakes Community College and Iowa Central Community College in the Corridor Region is intended to fill the gap between federal and state grants/scholarships and tuition and qualified fees. Qualified areas of study include Business Administration & Management, Automotive Technology, Computer Integrated Fabrication Technology, Computer Programing, Construction Technology, Electrical Technology, Farm Equipment & Diesel Technology, HVAC Technology, Industrial Machinist, Welding Technology, Wind Energy & Turbine Technology, and many more. In the fall semester of 2022, Iowa Lakes Community College students received $536,627 in Last-Dollar Scholarship funds.
  • Iowa Language Learners Job Training Program: This program is intended to reduce language barriers in the workforce by supporting employer programs in English language proficiencies for work-related duties, policies or procedures, and support English speakers to learn a second language.

Other programs available include Home Base Iowa and Iowa Prison Industries Enhancement.