In February 1999, the “Skills 2000 Commission Report: Assessment of Major Employers’ Skill and Employment Needs in East Central Iowa” was published by the Skills 2000 Research Group in cooperation with Kirkwood Community College.
The report was based on a survey of 33 major employers representing 12.7% of the regional workforce, across five major growth business sectors: Manufacturing, health care, IT, agriculture and biotechnology, and general services. The report focused on five research questions related to: The needs of replacement workers by 2005, anticipated skills profiles and technology direction, how training needs were currently being met, required education levels and if they had changed, and how Kirkwood could implement programs to help close meeting skills gaps.
Then Alliant Energy President Jim Hoffman chaired the committee, and in the opening statement of his letter, he states, “Frankly, this may be one of the most important …. and disturbing … reports about this region you will ever see.”
Some of the findings shared in this report were that (1) the labor force growth rate in the ’90s expanded at nearly twice the rate of population growth, (2) unemployment declined from 2.68% in 1997 to 2.19% in the first quarter of 1998, (3) an alarming percentage of the workforce would be retiring in the next decade, and (4) that if skills capacity was not expanded, growth would be diverted to other communities and states.
If this all sounds very familiar, it is. Over the last 23 years, Skills Reports have been published in 2006, 2010, 2014, 2019, 2022 (Skills Talent Forecast) and now we have begun the data collection phase for Skills 2024. While the survey has been modified, the number of survey respondents has grown, and the types of skills have certainly been altered with changes in industry and technological advances, some things have remained the same.
We continue to struggle with an incredibly low unemployment rate, a relatively flat population growth, and the need for ever-changing skills to meet the needs of our employers’ production and service demands. As we navigate our way through a historic national workforce shortage emerging from a global pandemic, we also understand that the workforce constraints which have long impacted Iowa’s economy are presenting new challenges our employers must navigate.
We are asking our employers to assist once again in providing information on their projections, requirements and skill needs. We are acutely aware of the survey fatigue at this time, so we have gotten back to basics and drilled down to the most necessary areas, ensuring it will take no more than 15 minutes of your time. The survey includes multiple-choice and text-entry questions related to your business’ patterns of employment and immediate workforce goals.
Only one set of responses per company will be entered into final reporting, so we ask that you assist us in ensuring the survey link is completed by those most knowledgeable about the specifics of your organization. If you have not already received and completed a prepopulated link through Kirkwood or one of our economic development partners, you can follow this link to help us have the most complete picture possible: www.kirkwood.edu/skills2024. We want to be inclusive of business across all sectors, sizes and locations in our region.
To be included in the Skills 2024 Report, the survey must be submitted by Aug. 8. Your responses are confidential and will only be reported and shared to the public in aggregate.
Your participation in this survey is vital to our ability to continue to build programming and strategies most beneficial to our employer needs.
Jasmine Almoayyed is vice president, continuing education and training services, at Kirkwood Community College. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org