Report shows Iowa’s industry-driven sector partnerships on track
Public-private efforts well-positioned to help grow state’s talent pipeline for in-demand jobs
A new report shows Iowa is gaining ground in the expansion of sector partnerships, a key workforce development strategy designed to close industry-specific skills gaps in communities.
Sector partnerships bring together representatives from businesses within a given industry sector, such as information technology or health care, with key partners in industry, workforce, and education who work together to reduce barriers to employment, create career pathways to high-quality jobs, and align education to workforce needs. This work supports the Future Ready Iowa initiative, which calls for 70 percent of Iowans to have education or training beyond high school by 2025 to ensure Iowa’s workforce is equipped with the skills and education employers need.
Today’s report, released by the Iowa Department of Education in collaboration with Iowa Workforce Development and Iowa Central Community College, represents the first comprehensive overview of sector partnerships by region, industry, maturity level, major accomplishments, and areas for improvement. The study was conducted by researchiQ, a collaborative of the University of Northern Iowa’s Strategic Marketing Services and Institute for Decision Making. The report was released during a meeting of the Iowa Sector Partnership Leadership Council, which provides strategic direction for sector partnership policy in the state.
“We learned a lot about the needs of Iowa's sector partnerships, the industries they represent, and the challenges faced to ensure Iowa’s long-term workforce needs are met," said Drew Conrad, researchiQ lead and member of Iowa's Sector Partnership Leadership Council. “We will only succeed if we collaborate with all partners, understand regional workforce needs, and create pathways for innovation. It is about really understanding the needs of both industry and the workforce and how we can innovate to meet those needs.”
The report identifies nearly 60 sector partnerships throughout Iowa in varying stages of development across many industry sectors.
“Sector strategies are one of the tools in our toolbox as we work to close the skills gap and meet the Future Ready Iowa goal of ensuring that 70 percent of Iowans have postsecondary training, education or credentials by 2025,” said Beth Townsend, director of Iowa Workforce Development. “The report issued today will provide partners working to meet the Future Ready Iowa goal with strategies and tactics for meeting the goal in their own particular region.”
Industry-specific sector partnerships address the needs of both employers and workers while strengthening regional economic competitiveness. The role of the Iowa Sector Partnership Leadership Council, as outlined in Iowa’s Unified State Plan to implement the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), is to identify best practices, provide direction, and serve in a formal advisory role for the state’s sector partnerships.
“For the first time, we know the current status of all of Iowa’s sector partnerships – the industry sectors served, leadership structure, current projects, future goals and stumbling blocks each has encountered,” said Joe Collins, education consultant for sector partnerships with the Iowa Department of Education. “This report not only paints a picture of the collaborative work being done, it identifies ways that we, as a state, can better support the sector partnerships through funding, technical assistance, marketing, training and regulatory guidance.”
Findings from the report include:
- The top industries for sector partnerships in Iowa include manufacturing, followed by information technology and health science.
- Each county in Iowa, as well as six counties from neighboring states, is served by at least one sector partnership.
- Nearly all sector partnerships (95 percent) are affiliated with a secondary or postsecondary organization, over half (54 percent) are affiliated with a local school district, and the vast majority (77 percent) are affiliated or plan to affiliate with industry or trade organizations and unions.
- Developing a strong pipeline, building career awareness in schools, and workforce training and skill development are top priorities identified by sector partnerships.
The report will aid the Iowa Sector Partnership Leadership Council as it works to expand sector partnership policy in Iowa. The council is comprised of representatives from all key areas: business and industry, trade, education, government and community associations.
Access the Inventory of Sector Partnership report.