The biggest challenge facing Des Moines Area Community College right now is a lack of space to train future workers in fields that are and will be in demand in Iowa,  said DMACC President Rob Denson.

However, approximately $90 million will be raised over 10 years through equipment and building levies approved earlier this month by Central Iowa voters. Denson said the money will be spent on creating classrooms and laboratory space in order to educate more students in the fields where Iowa has a shortage of workers: manufacturing, health care, transportation – especially truck drivers – and information technology.

DMACC’s Facilities Strategic Plan for 2016-2025 details proposed expansions at five of the college’s six campuses. In addition, the college just opened a school at Southridge Mall. 


Here is a list of some of the college’s key capital improvement plans: 

1. The West campus, 5959 Grand Ave. in West Des  Moines, needs three more 6,500-square-foot bays. Built in 2001, the building has been at capacity for “several years,” Denson said. The campus likely will need to provide classes in health sciences in addition to the technology, business and liberal arts classes offered there now.

2. The Ankeny campus needs more space for classrooms and laboratories, specifically for programs in advanced manufacturing and automotive and diesel technology. That will require building new buildings and remodeling some current buildings

3. The college needs to expand health care programs everywhere. DMACC recently purchased the Capitol Medical Office Building at 1300 Des Moines St., just to the east of the former Mercy Capitol hospital. The college had to move out of the Iowa Building across the street in May when the state decided to demolish that building.

4. The Urban campus needs more classroom space. According to the college’s facilities plan, that could include the construction of a new building with a library, student services, computer laboratories, a bookstore and classrooms for science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs. 


More students going to DMACC right after school

Enrollment was down overall at DMACC last year, but enrollment among students who were attending the college right out of high school was up 13 percent. 

The overall decrease reflects an improving economy, said President Rob Denson, as the decline was primarily among older workers, who have been able to find jobs as the economy improves. The increase in  younger students likely reflects the desire for students to save money overgoing to four-year institutions right away, Denson said.

“I think we’ve come of age,” he said. “I think during the recession, they came to us because they could save more money. Now they’ve had a good experience and they continue to come, which is good for us.” 

The college has also worked to bring programming to high school students through its Career Academies. Pella and Waukee are the latest towns to commit to building facilities, which are constructed using money raised from community members. DMACC then provides the equipment and runs the programs.

Career Academies already exist in Ankeny, Ames, Newton, Perry and at Southridge Mall.


Business Partnerships

DMACC has partnered with businesses to help them meet needs, Denson said. 

Two recent examples: 

• UnityPoint Health identified lower-level employees who might want to move up in the health care field, and is putting together programs that DMACC will teach on-site to help those employees attain the skills they need. UnityPoint is offering some tuition reimbursement for the program.

• Denson said Accumold has helped the college fill its tool and die programs. Though they are good jobs, he said, the college was having a hard time getting students to sign up for the courses. “We put on a program, said ‘come learn about manufacturing,’ and maybe two people showed up. Accumold called the meeting, we had 40 people show up, and we’ve had a full program ever since,” Denson said.