Iowa’s Community Colleges Partner to Strengthen Manufacturing Workforce

Initiative Announced at ACT

Officials from all 15 Iowa community colleges convened at ACT headquarters in Iowa City recently to announce an unprecedented partnership designed to strengthen Iowa’s workforce: the Iowa Advanced Manufacturing Consortium (I-AM).


Melissa Murer Corrigan, interim head, ACT workforce development (at podium), opens the I-AM event at ACT headquarters. Seated, from left: Rita Grimm, COO/general counsel, Iowa Economic Development Authority; Mick Starcevich, president, Kirkwood Community College; Richard Kacmarynski, talent acquisition lead, Vermeer Corporation; Lori Adams, division administrator, Iowa Workforce Development; and Robert Denson, president, Des Moines Area Community College.

Funded by a $13 million grant from the US Department of Labor, I-AM is a community college initiative that will help thousands of individuals prepare for careers in Iowa’s growing advanced manufacturing sector—characterized by high-tech products and processes, and requiring highly skilled workers.

“This announcement builds on ACT’s commitment to help our nation devise and deploy innovative tools to build a twenty-first century workforce capable of excelling on a global stage,” said Melissa Murer Corrigan, interim head, ACT workforce development.

This statewide collaboration linking education, workforce, and economic development is the first of its kind in Iowa—and the nation.

The I-AM initiative will capitalize on ACT’s Tomorrow’s Workforce Now (TWN), a national program to bridge the workplace skills gap. Under I-AM, employers can measure and benchmark the skills of their employees and applicants, and individuals can document their skills and earn credentials. ACT will provide qualified participants with ACT WorkKeys® assessments, the foundation of the ACT National Career Readiness Certificate Plus (NCRC™ Plus). Iowans pursuing employment in any industry sector can also take ACT WorkKeys assessments at no cost as part of Gov. Terry Branstad’s Skilled Iowa initiative.

Robert Denson, president of Des Moines Area Community College, said that the I-AM goal is to have 360 participating companies and administer 24,000 tests—6,000 sets of the four NCRC Plus assessments (Reading for Information, Locating Information, Applied Mathematics, and Talent)—by August.

Nearly 23,000 Iowans already have NCRCs, said Lori Adams, division administrator, Iowa Workforce Development. “Iowa has nearly 5,000 Skilled Iowa employers who have signed a letter of commitment and who recognize the value of the ACT NCRC—and who agree to post at least one job opening in which possessing the NCRC is preferred,” she said.

Denson urged employers to take the assessments themselves for a greater appreciation of achieving an NCRC.  He missed earning the highest-level NCRC—platinum—by one point.  A framed gold-level NCRC hangs in his office. “If someone walks into your shop or office or company or whatever it may be, and they’ve got any one of the top-level certificates, it means something,” said Denson.

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