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October: Manufacturing Month

Welcome!

Welcome to our new blog series about Iowa’s Community Colleges. Each month we’ll share thoughts and ideas on critical issues facing our Colleges and things you may not know about this important sector of higher education.

Does manufacturing matter?

Last month we got the chance to attend the Legends of Manufacturing event hosted by Iowa’s Association of Business and Industry. Honors were given out for manufacturing leaders across the state, and we also got to participate in awarding scholarship to 15 students entering Community Colleges for education and training in things like welding and robotics.

Executive Director of IACCT, Emily Shields, stands on the far left of the photo, wearing a button down shirt, red skirt, and green heels. Next to her stands a high school aged man wearing a button down, khaki pants, and dress shoes. Next to him stands another man of similar age, wearing a blue collared sports shirt, blue jeans, and brown tennis shoes. Next to him stands another student of similar age wearing a black collared short sleeve shirt with blue jeans and boat shoes. Finally on the far right stands Mike Ralston, president of the Iowa Association of Business and Industry wearing a black suit jacket and pants, a white shirt, red tie, and black dress shoes. Behind them hangs a printed backdrop of a downtown Des Moines bridge and surrounding buildings

What do Iowans think about manufacturing?

The theme of the Legends of Manufacturing night was how little it seems Iowans know about the role of manufacturing in our state. There are more than 200,000 manufacturing jobs in Iowa, representing more than 14% of the state’s total employment. While many Iowans have a negative perception of these jobs as dirty, unsafe, and low wage, the truth is that technological advances and other industry changes mean that these jobs are often well-paid and offer exciting, safe work environments. These jobs also now require more skill and often training or education beyond high school. Iowa’s Community Colleges offer the bulk of these training and education opportunities.

Misperceptions and lack of information are among the reasons we are partners with ABI on Elevate Advanced Manufacturing, a statewide, integrated marketing campaign to promote careers and educational pathways. This initiative has helped many Iowans see their opportunities differently and connect Iowa’s critical manufacturing sector with a diverse workforce. While this has been successful, this industry, like many others, is still facing critical workforce shortages.

Community Colleges make lasting impact on our students

It's important, however, to remember our successes. Our Community Colleges have made a lasting impact on so many students who have trained in manufacturing, offering up opportunities to figure out their future pathways. We also have great partnerships with local businesses, where employees can train with their local College. Here are some examples of the great work our Community Colleges are doing:

  • Osceola Food and Southwestern Community College partner each year for employee training. Shawn Oaks, SWCC Industrial Technology instructor, said Osceola Food has been a long-time supporter of the College and Industrial Technology program. “This partnership is a win-win for the college and Osceola Food,” said Oaks. “Through these sponsorships, the workers will get better pay, the industry will get skilled employees, and the college will gain students in the program.” Employees also go through rigorous in-house screening processes to qualify to be sponsored in SWCC’s programs.

  • Emily Wall, who initially came to Northeast Iowa Community College to earn her GED, found people who believed in her, and knew she could do so much with her future. She went through the Welding program, received her diploma, and continued her training to complete an Intro to Industrial Maintenance short-term certificate. “My academic advisor talked to me and is the first person to tell me I wasn't dumb. NICC has changed my life in so many ways, from teachers who go the extra mile to the technical support that always calls you back. NICC has come into my life as a matter of chance and yet so radically given me the resources and support to further myself more than I ever thought possible.”

  • Iowa Lakes Community College’s Welding instructor, Emily Gottche, continues on her family’s legacy. Growing up, Emily’s dad salvaged metal and did welding repair around the farm. She was fascinated by the process, and this fascination turned into a passion she wanted to pursue as an adult. Emily quit her history degree pursuit and came to Iowa Lakes, enrolled in Welding, became an instructor, and is now passionate about helping students achieve their goals. See her full story here: https://rb.gy/kq7ter

How you can share our stories

We know there are many powerful manufacturing stories and examples of business partnerships in our communities, and we’d love to be able to share our impact with others. We encourage you to share these on social media using the hashtag: #IAmfg and tag us: @IowaCCT

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