“There’s been a lot of talk lately about how deeply the state needs middle skill workers,” said Steve Ovel, executive director of Government Relations at Kirkwood Community College. “We can build a strong workforce right here in the Corridor with a short-term educational commitment. Many of the in-demand careers with good wages call for less than a four-year degree.”
According to recent research by Iowa Workforce Development, 66 percent of Iowa’s unemployed or underemployed have no recognized educational credentials past high school.
The same study reports roughly 50 percent of Iowa’s available jobs are considered “middle skill” – meaning they require more than a high school education but less than a four-year degree.
“Iowa needs these workers,” said Kim Johnson, vice president of Kirkwood’s Continuing Education and Training Services division. “Recent graduates aren’t enough to fill these gaps. More mid- to late-career workers will have to upgrade their skills to take these positions.”
Middle skill doesn’t mean middle wage, however. Growing middle skill careers include computer and mathematical occupations, nurses, dental assistants, medical assistants, CNC machinists and compliance officers, who can expect respectable annual incomes.
Demand for workers trained in these areas is expected to grow rapidly in the Corridor through 2018.
Concurrently, Kirkwood commissioned a study of recent graduates and learned 97 percent were satisfied with their Kirkwood education, and 92 percent believed their time at Kirkwood prepared them well for their careers. Of those polled, 90 percent are currently employed. Ninety-five percent live or work in Iowa.
“Obviously, a short-term educational commitment can have a huge pay-off down the road,” Johnson said. “Community colleges are a low cost educational choice for those seeking associate degrees, certification, job training or even a refresher or quick upgrade and not a full degree.”
For example, Kirkwood’s tuition is approximately half the Iowa Regents’ universities. Plus, due to an active Foundation focused on providing student support, Kirkwood is able to award students more than $2.3 million in scholarships annually. That, on top of state and federal financial aid programs, puts needed credentials within reach for a greater percentage of the local population.
“Student success is Kirkwood’s institutional priority now and in the future,” Ovel continued. “As part of our learner success initiative, we’re focusing on the total student success story, from application to graduation and beyond. This commitment is showing itself in our workforce and will continue to, as we fill the local employment gap.”