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Iowa has gap to fill in ‘middle-skilled’ workers

Although half of the available jobs in Iowa fall into the category of “middle-skilled” labor – positions requiring a high school diploma or associate degree – only 33 percent of Iowa’s work force qualifies as middle-skilled workers.

Iowa Workforce Development (IWD) announced that statistic today in a report on skilled labor needs. The agency also called on the state to promote more technical training opportunities and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education.  

IWD Director Teresa Wahlert said the state needs to promote more training, such as apprenticeships, because she expects the growing “green jobs” sector to increase the need for middle-skilled labor in areas like manufacturing. The economic recovery will also add to the demand for this sector of skilled labor, she said. 

A better focus on technical skills is needed, since only 18 percent of available jobs are classified as low-skill, but 38 percent of available Iowa workers are considered low-skill workers, creating a gap. Currently, 32 percent of jobs available in Iowa are for high-skilled workers, but only 29 percent of the workforce is considered highly skilled. 

The agency also said education needs to target not only youths, but also people already in the work force. By 2025, according to the report, the majority of the labor force will still be older workers unaffected by any changes in high school and college curriculum put into place in the near future. Therefore, the state also needs to focus on educating people already in the work force. 

To see the full report, click here. 

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