Sheldon, Iowa — The “skills gap”. That’s what people are calling the black hole that is developing in the jobs market. It’s really caused by two factors, says Northwest Iowa Community College Recruiter and Trainer Jerry Baas.
He says another factor is how the public perceives these jobs. Iowa Association of Business and Industry President Mike Ralston says that when you ask the average Iowan about advanced manufacturing, they think of an outdated image – a dirty, unsafe work environment. He says that simply is not the case. Baas says these jobs are not a consolation prize and some of them pay better than many jobs that require a bachelor’s degree.
The Iowa-Advanced Manufacturing or “I-AM” Consortium and Iowa Association of Business and Industry have launched a new campaign to promote careers and educational pathways in advanced manufacturing. The “Elevate Advanced Manufacturing” campaign will begin by addressing the current public perception of manufacturing and educating Iowans on the opportunities that exist within the industry. Part of the campaign is in the form of a grant to community colleges like NCC to help get the word out.
The two organizations claim that by 2018, there will be a shortage of nearly 7,000 skilled workers in the advanced manufacturing sector. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis in 2011, the average manufacturing worker made over $77,000 annually, including pay and benefits, while the average worker in other industries earned only just over $60,000.
Baas says there are certain programs at NCC that dovetail with this message.
Baas says he thinks the message is especially important for non-traditional students. People who for whatever reason either didn’t take much if any post-secondary education, or have a degree or diploma in something else and are unable to find employment in their field or need a career change.
Northwest Iowa Community College featured a video on their Facebook page a while back from TV personality Mike Rowe, of the Discovery Channel’s “Dirty Jobs” program, who is an advocate for vocational skills training and educating people about the skills gap. Find a link below.