OUR VIEW: Does Iowa need more people?
Friday, February 10, 2012 7:00 AM
Iowa Economic Development Director Debi Durham repeated a theme at last week’s Economic Forecast luncheon, presented by the Business Record, that she had outlined earlier in a presentation to the state House of Representatives’ economic growth committee.
Durham says Iowa needs more people.
It’s a return to an idea that prevailed before the Great Recession, when we worried that Iowa was running out of skilled, properly educated workers to fill the kinds of jobs that seemed to be proliferating.
Now unemployment is the constant concern, so a call for more residents seems counterintuitive.
Durham’s point of view was summed up this way in a Des Moines Register article on her report to the lawmakers: “Businesses are looking for an educated work force to run advanced manufacturing operations that don’t necessarily require a college degree, but which do call for specialized training. Attracting people with such skills will be as necessary as training Iowa’s current residents, she said.”
It calls to mind Dubuque’s success in attracting an IBM Corp. work center, partly by pitching the availability of well-educated employees in the city’s tri-state neighborhood, along with a general thirst for jobs.
Drawing new workers, however, doesn’t solve the problem of finding jobs for current Iowans who are not well-suited to a quickly changing economy.
Maybe we can create thousands of jobs and persuade people from all over to come and fill them. However, Iowa would fall short of its potential if we still had thousands of residents who were resigned to part-time labor and unemployment checks.
At the Business Record event, keynote speaker David Oppedahl of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago noted Iowa’s community college system as an asset in the need to train people for specific jobs.
Those schools are most likely the key to getting unemployed Iowans back in the game.
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