Nevada school board members listened to a presentation Monday about Skilled Iowa.
Kirstin Born, of Iowa Workforce Development, told the board how the Nevada Schools could get involved in Skilled Iowa by allowing high school students to take a free National Career Readiness test and then working with local businesses to identify jobs that students can pursue locally and in Iowa.
Born said she has support from local Economic Development Director LaVon Schiltz to implement the program in Nevada, and Nevada High School Principal Justin Gross told the board he is interested in the program.
“The part I like about it is that we have a group of kids in our building that community college might not be their thing right now. But if we get businesses in on this, and we show kids this is something you can look to do right here in our community, right after high school,” then Gross feels it’s a very worthwhile endeavor.
Born said she has been working with students in Story City at Roland-Story High School, where the city, economic development leaders, school and businesses are becoming very involved in Skilled Iowa. “It’s very synergenic, very exciting,” Born said of the partnership that is developing there.
According to material that Born provided, the Skilled Iowa Initiative is helping businesses develop a strong, skilled workforce. With the National Career Readiness Test, those taking it, whether students or adults, earn a National Career Readiness Certificate, which shows how they tested in three areas, called WorkKeys®. Those areas are: 1) applied mathematics, 2) reading for information and 3) locating information – areas that have been proven to measure skills critical to on-the-job success.
Test scores are linked to four levels of certification: Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze, and for each area there are a set of careers that a person with the matching skill set would be most qualified to pursue.
Born said some schools are testing their freshmen students to give them a baseline of their skills and help them see what they need to improve on if they want to have the skills for a higher certificate level. This can help them sort out which classes they want to take before their high school career is finished. Other schools, she said, are testing older students, and some schools are testing students both at the beginning and near the end of their high school years. She also pointed out that not everyone makes the bronze level and earns a National Career Readiness Certificate, which can then be something they need to work toward.
In Story City, Born said students will be taking the assessment in March. Leading up to that testing, local businesses that are larger employers in the community have been coming to the school and meeting with students about the career/job opportunities they have in their companies. They are showing students, based on their testing level, this is a career track they could be in, and what the beginning pay would be and what the advancement opportunities would be.
Story City is pursuing the Skilled Iowa Communities Initiative, which seeks to improve job training and marketability of Iowa’s workforce and drive future economic growth for the state.
Gross said he first heard about Skilled Iowa at a DMACC Consortium meeting. He likes the fact that there are no fees for giving this test to the students, and he likes what it could do for students and the community. “If we could say, here’s some businesses that value these skills and you could walk in, not having to leave Nevada, and find employment that has advancement opportunities … that has value.” Gross also thinks there would be value for the school in receiving the data about how Nevada’s students are growing in terms of on-the-job/career skills.
Gross said he’d like to continue working with Schiltz and local businesses to develop the kind of partnerships that Story City is developing.
Born said she’s excited for Nevada to take part in Skilled Iowa, especially in light of the renewable energy and ag-related businesses that Nevada has brought in.
According to the Skilled Iowa brochure, a number of Iowa businesses have signed on with Skilled Iowa as a way of finding the most skilled applicants. Skilled Iowa is available to individuals at no cost and is recommended for many career pathways. Employers can utilize the National Career Readiness Certificate to help identify skilled workers and to enhance the foundational skills of current employees.
Some of the businesses already taking part in Skilled Iowa include: ACH-Tone’s Brothers, Amcor Rigid Plastics, Dahl’s Foods, DMACC, Fareway Stores, Inc., Growmark-Central Iowa, Hy-Vee, Iowa Health Systems, Iowa State University, Knapp Properties, Manpower, Mediacom and Pella Corporation.