The Iowa Workforce Development (IWD) Foundation has won a 75-thousand dollar grant from the Walmart Foundation to promote career opportunities for low-income women. I-W-D spokesperson, Kerry Koonce, the grant will be used to establish the “Women’s Occupational Matching and Networking (WOMaN) Project” to help women find jobs in non-traditional occupations. “Particularly in the construction and advanced manufacturing area, and so we are going to be working with our customers in our food assistance and our promise jobs programs to really be targeting these individuals and getting them trained and ready to go into these careers,” Koonce says.
Koonce says they picked the two areas of focus based on their potential. “Well they are the two areas where there is demand and growth. They are two areas that women traditionally are much lower in the employment ranks in,” Koonce says. “But they are very high-paying jobs and very self-sustaining. And a lot of these individuals are single parents with young children at home, so strong middle-income wages with good benefits are really important for these families.” She says the program will have a couple of benefits. “You are getting people off of any kind of public assistance, and their life is better, they’re self-sustaining, they are contributing to their own families,” Koonce says.
A recent study compiled by Iowa Workforce Development found the hourly wages of women were 25 percent less than men, and salaried women earn 19-point-four percent less. The study found a primary reason for this disparity in wages was select female-dominated career fields that pay less, along with male-dominated occupations that tend to pay more. Koonce says they are working with partners, such as the Master Builders of Iowa.
“We’ve targeted four areas across the state where we can have the highest impact, and that is: Waterloo, Ottumwa, Davenport and Des Moines,” Koonce says. “And that is based on the ratio of individuals who qualify within this low-income program. And also where there is the need and the opportunity for the growth in these nontraditional occupations.” Koonce says they will get in touch with those already in the two state programs she mentioned. “But we will also be opening it to other people who may qualify, but they are not completely on the assistance program. And we will be kicking it off at the end of January,” Koonce explains.
Koonce says grants like this to the I-W-D foundation allow them to run the program without state dollars. “It’s an area that we’ve begun targeting more heavily within the last couple of years. There’s a lot of programs out there that we can use, and we want to be sure that we are providing all of the resources available to our customers.” Koonce says the non-profit status of the I-W-D Foundation allows them to go after such grants.