Northeast Iowa Community College (NICC), in a consortium with Iowa's 14 other community colleges, has received U.S. Department of Labor grant funding for a new initiative that focuses on education and workforce training in the advanced manufacturing sector.

Over 3000 individuals statewide will be given an opportunity to earn a college credential and enter careers in advanced manufacturing.

Des Moines Area Community College is coordinating the new training program, known as the "Iowa-Advanced Manufacturing (I-AM): A Talent Success Strategy for the 21st Century Workforce." The state's 15 community colleges will receive a portion of the $12.9 in grant funds to collaboratively build training capacity at community colleges by developing and awarding certificates (non-credit and credit), diplomas, and associate degrees in the welding, machining, industrial maintenance, industrial automation, manufacturing technology, robotics, and transportation and logistics programs.

For NICC, the federal funding provides additional resources to expand student capacity by hiring additional faculty members for its welding, industrial maintenance and computerized numerical control (CNC) programs. Through the modularization of curriculum, NICC also offers students enrolled in non-credit certification training opportunities to continue into credit programs to earn more advanced degrees. NICC will apply the funding to closely align program curriculum with the National Association of Manufacturing (NAM) credentialing system, offer more student support through contextualized learning opportunities by hiring two new success coaches or I-BEST instructors, and purchase additional materials to ensure that students have training access to the most state-of-the-art, industry-recognized equipment available.

The award to the I-AM consortium is part of the U.S. Department of Labor's announcement of $500 million in grant awards for the second round of the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) program. As part of President Obama's "A New Blueprint for Career and Technical Education," the TAACCCT program provides additional financial support to two-year community colleges and technical schools, such as NICC, to enhance workers' skills and qualify them for high-demand, high-paying employment positions in advanced manufacturing.

The new initiative and funding benefits local employers who have job openings yet are struggling to find qualified workers to fill the positions. Skilled worker shortages impact a company's ability to grow, such as Bodine Electric in Peosta, which sought to expand its business but cannot find enough qualified CNC operators. Other local employers who identified advanced manufacturing skilled labor needs and worked with NICC for the TAACCCT grant include Infastech in Decorah, Berry Plastics in Peosta, Henderson Products in Manchester, Caterpillar in Elkader and Alum-Line in Cresco.

NICC President Dr. Liang Chee Wee said the new collaborative initiative is an important catalyst that will offer benefits for workers and employers throughout Northeast Iowa, and is especially relevant to the goals outlined in the TAACCCT program.

"This new statewide initiative and Northeast Iowa Community College's unique local partnerships and credentialing programs closely align with President Obama's blueprint for career and technical education. Our role in the I-AM partnership will greatly enhance the economic vitality of communities throughout Northeast Iowa by developing our students' skills and providing employers with the qualified workers they need," said NICC President Liang Chee Wee.

As one example, the college's non-credit introduction to advanced manufacturing certification program specifically trains workers for the CNC machining field, and many local employers are working with NICC to identify the skills future employees need. NICC developed similar certification programs in other skill areas throughout the District.

In Manchester and Cresco, for example, NICC instructors teach customized welding skills to area workers to match the needs of area employers. In the Dubuque area, additional certification programs are being planned in welding and industrial maintenance.

Curricula in the NICC programs will be aligned with third-party certifications, including the National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC), the American Welding Society (AWS), the National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS) and the Manufacturing Skill Standards Council (MSSC). The third-party certifications and member organizations are affiliated with the NAM-endorsed Skills Certification System.