First, identify skilled worker shortages. Second, help Iowans get the training they need to fill available jobs. Those are the two most important things we can do to continue growing our state's economy and putting Iowans back to work.

Our state ranks high in terms of overall business friendliness, but we are 40th when it comes to labor supply, according to Forbes. And Iowa employers say they need more skilled workers.

For example, Iowa agricultural manufacturers are doing great, but they could increase sales and pump more money into the Iowa economy if they could find and hire more skilled welders. When it comes to IT specialists, Iowa businesses in almost every field can't find enough. These businesses want to expand in Iowa, but they can't find the people they need to run the computers and manage the software.

Iowa's community colleges already work closely with the local businesses in their areas to identify local skill shortages. We should ask them to do more when it comes to workforce training.

Last year, the Legislature approved a three-year, $15 million-a-year investment to expand workforce training at our community colleges. The Gap Assistance Program "fills the gap" in financial aid by helping Iowans take non-credit classes to earn certifications and professional licenses. The Legislature also created Pathways for Academic Career and Employment (PACE), which coordinates efforts to help returning students prepare to fill local job openings.

I hope we'll continue to enhance Iowa's workforce skills by building on the great partnerships between businesses and training programs. For more information on worker training and tackling skills shortages, go to http://tinyurl.com/a6euk7k.





UPCOMING PUBLIC FORUMS

Saturday, February 02

9:00 AM Town Hall Meeting

At Chickasaw County Farm Bureau, 506 W. Milwaukee Street, New Hampton



Saturday, February 02

10:30 AM Charles City Listening Post

At NIACC Rm 108, 200 Harwood Drive



Friday, February 15

9:30 AM Northwood Legislative Forum

Sponsored by Winn-Worth Betco

At Northwood City Hall, 627 Central Avenue



Friday, February 15

11:00 AM Manly Legislative Forum

Sponsored by Winn-Worth Betco

At Manly City Hall, 106 South Broadway



Saturday, February 16

10:00 AM Mitchell County Legislative Forum

Sponsored by the Bi-Partisan Women's Group of Mitchell County

At the Riceville Library, 307 Woodland Ave



Saturday, February 16

11:30 AM Cresco Listening Post

At the Public Library Program Room