Report: Iowa has plenty of “middle-skill” jobs but few workers to fill them

News

May 23rd, 2012 by Ric Hanson

State labor officials say Iowa has an abundance of good-paying jobs in a wide range of professions and too few workers trained to fill them. There are plenty of openings in what are considered “middle-skill” jobs. Kerry Koonce, spokeswoman for Iowa Workforce Development, says those jobs require at least a high school diploma and additional training or schooling.”So it’s some kind of a certification, maybe an apprenticeship, up to a two-year degree,” Koonce says. “While people don’t always think about those jobs as being high-paying jobs, those jobs can be anything from a dental hygienist to a welder to everything in between and they are very good-paying jobs.” 

She says there’s a “mismatch” of job opportunities and worker skill sets in Iowa right now. Koonce says, “We have these middle skill jobs, which amount to about 50% of our overall jobs in the state right now, but only 33% of the individuals out there in the workforce meet that skill set.” There is a way to fix the problem, she says, as parents can encourage their children to pursue training beyond high school, if not to a four-year college, then to a community college or an apprenticeship. She also looks to Iowans who’ve already been in the workforce for years who are looking for a new avenue.

“We need people that have been unemployed to be taking advantage of the re-training dollars that are available to them,” Koonce says. “Maybe they’ve been laid off from a manufacturing company and they’re looking at re-skilling. They need to take advantage of the opportunities that are out there to fund training, to go back to school, to bring their skill sets up to meet the demand that’s out there now.” 

As for Iowa’s low-skill jobs, about 18% of the state’s current openings are in that category, requiring a high school diploma or less, yet 38% of the current workforce is considered low-skilled. Koonce says high-skill jobs, those requiring at least a four-year college degree, are about evenly matched with workers.

(Matt Kelley/Radio Iowa)