Grow the workforce … grow the community

In today’s economy the idea of “growing your workforce” is paramount to “growing your community.” Serving as a catalyst for collaboration and coordination of community and economic development efforts that enrich and grow the region, is the strategic priority of the Marshalltown Regional Partnership. So “grow the workforce … grow the community,” is it really that simple? Not exactly. But, growing our workforce will absolutely be a key to the future growth of our community.

Data that we received recently from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, Community and Economic Development, shows that since 2010 Marshalltown and all of Marshall County has had a slight population decrease (Marshalltown: 27,552 to 27,328; while Marshall County had a percent population change of -1.2 percent since 2010). Our charge is to reverse the trend and thus change the narrative. One way to reverse the trend is by growing our workforce.

The Marshalltown Regional Partnership (MRP) has been collaborating and partnering with the Marshalltown Community School District (MCSD), Marshalltown Community College (MCC), the Marshalltown Business Education Alliance (MBEA), and others in its quest to grow our workforce. You may have recently begun hearing about an exciting new initiative of the MCSD called Bobcat Ready … College and Career Readiness for Life Beyond High School. Just as we understand that today’s students learn and demonstrate their college and career readiness in a variety of ways, we also understand that today’s economy necessitates a workforce made up of individuals with a variety of skill sets. Some of these skill sets necessitate a four-year degree and beyond, while many other important and needed jobs in today’s economy requires a trade education, a certificate or a two-year degree. In fact, many of the quality jobs available in today’s economy, including with our local employers, do not need a four-year degree.

The Marshalltown Learning Academy (MLA), a program of the MCSD, was recently awarded a STEM BEST Grant by the Governor’s STEM Council, and is in the process of developing pre-apprenticeships in collaboration with various business partners that will lead to jobs in high demand employment sectors.

The MRP is also collaborating with the MCSD, MCC and the city of Marshalltown to redevelop a building trades program again in Marshalltown and Marshall County. A building trades program will help to develop a number of mid-level skills necessary in today’s economy, while also help in the development and redevelopment of our housing stock.

As we continue our partnering efforts to grow our workforce, one message that we have is, “don’t rule out community college, such as MCC, don’t rule out a trade school, don’t rule out a very good career because you aren’t interested in going to a four year college/university … there are plenty of very good job/career opportunities out there in today’s economy, that do not require a four year degree.” In fact, a recent Wall Street Journal article was headlined: Iowa’s Employment Problem: Too Many Jobs, Not Enough People. States can’t find enough trainees for its programs; the Midwest is the only region where openings outnumber out-of-work job seekers.

Because of the partnering and collaborative efforts of many organizations here in our community, I believe Marshalltown and Marshall County are positioning ourselves well to continue to grow our community, by specifically keying in on strategies to grow our workforce.

As I recently attended the Governor’s 2018 Future Ready Iowa Summit, with many other Marshalltown leaders; it felt good to check off a number of ideas that were being discussed to ultimately grow our workforce, because in fact, we here in Marshalltown are already doing or are developing programs to help grow our workforce.

So yes, as professional site selectors express to us; in today’s economy, grow and prepare your workforce, and the prospects for growth in your community is significantly enhanced. We are headed in the right direction, Marshalltown and Marshall County!

# MarshalltownVibe #MarshalltownPride

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David Barajas is the CEO of the Marshalltown Regional Partnership.