Sustaining Iowa’s competitive posture in today’s global economy is an unrelenting challenge with a bar that is consistently raised by other states and countries. Attracting, developing, and retaining a world-class workforce is critical to ensuring the continued vitality of Iowa commerce. As baby boomers age and retire, companies will lose a significant number of experienced workers and, consequently, valuable institutional knowledge. For the first time in the history of America, the incoming generation of workers is smaller than the preceding generation, resulting in a net reduction of our skilled workforce. The impact of this situation is exacerbated in Iowa by the continual loss of college-educated workers who leave the state to find jobs that meet their lifestyle, geographic, or career preferences.
Evolving product and energy resource limitations, unpredictable market forces, and evermore strident regulatory policies provide an opportune moment to develop economic development strategies that employ pragmatic sustainability as a critical component. A business plan influenced by sustainable disciplines will better navigate emerging constraints in resources and regulation by utilizing raw material more efficiently to reduce the environmental footprint of a company or institution, which leads to reduced costs and improved margins. Concurrent to employing sustainability-based manufacturing operations and product delivery services, new markets of consumers should emerge to whom leading-edge product innovation and sustainable practices appeal.
RESEARCH, INNOVATION, & COMMERCIALIZATION
The best business plan promotes strong industry clusters stimulated by aggressive innovation while advocating for policies that support cluster success within a competitive economy. Businesses that lead their industries in ideas, innovation, and market-reach thrive and have great staying power. They also tend to attract a more educated and skilled talent pool, one that naturally networks across occupational communities while creating economic activity that resists migration and sustains local economies. The Iowa Business Council supports policy initiatives that mitigate competitive weaknesses or leverage advantages pertaining to innovative research, commercialization, and the resulting attraction of a highly skilled and educated workforce.
DEVELOPING A QUALIFIED, DIVERSE WORKFORCE
To attract and retain a qualified and diverse workforce, Iowa must not be inhibited from promoting all that it has to offer. National publications regularly tout the family-oriented quality of life values in Iowa based on high rankings the state receives for its overall cost of living, strong education system, productive workforce, affordable housing, low crime rate, accessible health care system, work/life balance, access to cultural and recreational activities, and many other criteria. The presence of a diverse and vital economy enhances a quality lifestyle and incites meaningful career opportunities. To this end, private-and public-sector recruitment efforts should aggressively highlight such “Best Places…” rankings and make it easier for talented individuals with diverse professional and cultural backgrounds to consider living and working here:
- Regional and statewide collaborations of organizations must be encouraged to promote cultural awareness and career opportunities, e.g., Iowa Mosaic.
- Business culture adjustments can be made to better accommodate the changing demographics of the workforce, which increasingly values a more balanced work schedule and lifestyle.
CAREER AWARENESS/LIFELONG LEARNING
Critical to success in narrowing the gap between the needs of Iowa employers and skill sets possessed by Iowa workers is facilitating career awareness among all Iowans and expanding the infrastructure for lifelong learning and professional career growth.
Elevating Career Awareness (ECA) - an Iowa Coalition for Innovation & Growth (ICIG) initiative
ICIG focuses intensely on workforce development, retention, and attraction issues in Iowa, the many aspects for which interlock. One that is most prominent within the preK-16 school system is a noticeable lack of awareness regarding the kind of stimulating, rewarding work that is available to qualified individuals right here in Iowa. Whether it’s a high school, tech school, community college, or university graduate, there has yet to be created a widely viewed and broadly accepted method of conveying the many exciting jobs and careers available in this state. The intention of ECA is to efficiently coordinate the many public- and private-sector industry- and region-specific career awareness initiatives in Iowa so that popular technology can shine a bright light on opportunities available to students within the state once their schooling is complete.
Iowa Virtual Reality Education Pathfinder (I-VREP)
Surveys reveal that American middle and high school students have positive attitudes towards the subjects of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). However, many of them lack the necessary encouragement from mentors and role models in these fields. Through the use of donated computer-assisted design (CAD) equipment, I-VREP introduces students (grades 9-12), parents, teachers, counselors, and school administrators to virtual reality (VR) and actualization technology, industrial applications, career pathways, and industry mentors. Students research and design their own virtual programs as well as work with a staff member to create an education program that can be used to enhance an educational concept being taught. Students are required to develop at least one new educational concept each nine weeks.