EDA University Center at Iowa State University
Iowa has a low unemployment rate, due largely to the state’s slow growth and pronounced young-adult outmigration. Rural Iowa is particularly distressed. Of Iowa’s 99 counties, 71 have lost population since the 2010 census. Non-traditional workforce solutions are needed in order for businesses to better compete in a global market.
The Iowa Workforce Innovation Network (iWIN)
The Iowa Workforce Innovation Network (iWIN) is a new approach to community workforce planning. The goal is to pivot off of a 100-year-old workforce-training model, toward a holistic, community-focused approach to workforce management. With iWIN, ‘workforce’ is examined from four strategic viewpoints: 1) the regional STEM pipeline; 2) non-traditional attraction/retention efforts, including engineering talent; 3) employee output through incorporation of sustainable productivity initiatives; and 4) building a ‘virtual’ workforce with automation systems.
A key gap in the Iowa economic development landscape is a formal method to tie rural communities to more vibrant metropolitan areas. In 2019, CIRAS will begin providing targeted assistance to select clusters, each comprised of a rural community closely connected to a metropolitan area. The targeted communities will have populations between 5,000 and 25,000 and fall within a reasonable commute of a metropolitan area. At least one of the top-five community employers must be a manufacturer.
The iWIN team will work with regional economic developers and business leaders to develop innovative, community-specific, multi-faceted solutions to Iowa’s systemic workforce issue. The program will include five key elements: 1) applied research on workforce trends and opportunities; 2) leadership survey of current practices and goals; 3) workforce strategic plan; 4) prioritized operational plan; and 5) business and community technical assistance.
CIRAS staff and partners will work closely with each selected community to implement their unique iWIN plan. The plan will include a number of strategies from the list below.
Regional STEM pipeline
- FIRST LEGO League teams
- Summer STEM camps
- Engineering student internships
- National Manufacturing Day community plan
- STEM grants
Non-traditional attraction/retention activities
- Demographic-based workforce attraction strategies
- Community inclusion
- Internship programs
- Capstone projects
- Workforce retention
- Economic development counseling
Sustainable productivity initiatives
- Lean strategy development
- Lean Coffees
- Training Within Industry
- Plant layout
- B-2-B Networking
- New product/process development
- Problem scoping
- Automation implementation
- Emerging Technologies
- Automation 101