HJ - H&H Trailer Model

In this 2016 photo, then-Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, center, looks at a scale model of an H&H trailer built by the Clairnda company using inmates from the Clarinda Correctional Facility. The prison uses about 60 inmates for H&H as the intent is to give them job skills to be used once released. At right is current Gov. Kim Reynolds.(Herald-Journal File Photo)

It takes more than just a person to take the job. The employer wants confidence the applicants are competent for the position.

Both applicants and skills were discussed Thursday, Sept.5 at Lisle Corp. in Clarinda. The auto-tool manufacturer was one of 30 sites across the state hosting a Future Ready Iowa conference. Backed by Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, representatives from employers and education from the area met to discuss Iowa’s labor pool.

According to Iowa Workforce Development Director Beth Townsend, 68 percent of Iowa jobs in 2025 will need medium skills, ones where some college education is required. Training the workforce to fill that need, and others, is vital.

“Surveys show we need 148,000 educated,” she said. “We need more.”

Future Ready Iowa inlcudes Page County with Cass, Fremont, Harrison, Mills, Pottawattamie and Shelby to create the Council Bluffs area.

According to research, 70 % of the population is between 25 and 64.

For the Council Bluffs area to reach the 70 percent goal of people having medium skills, an additional 9,000 people are needed to have a degree beyond high school.

Iowa’s labor pool has about 58 percent with education beyond high school. Other surveys show 54 percent of Iowa’s jobs need medium skills and only 34 percent of the labor pool is eligible.

For low-skill jobs, ones where no post-high school education is needed, that makes up 11 percent of the jobs and has 32 percent of the labor pool.

“Those will be the first left behind as jobs automate,” she said.

Werner estimated Iowa has about 37,000 high school seniors. Of that amount, 34,000 will graduate high school. Break that down even more and 81 percent will express an interest in college and 71 percent will actually enroll. About 11 percent won’t attend college.

But what they learn after high school is what in important to employers.

“It’s not just reading, writing and arithmetic,” Werner said.

Some positions don’t need a college education as skills can be learned while on the job. Todd Oesterle, business marketing specialist with Iowa Workforce Development, explained how there are 1,300 registered apprenticeship positons which employers should consider.

“It’s ideal for high-turnover jobs,” he said. He also said apprenticeship should be considered to train younger employees to prepare when older, experienced employees retire.

Some certain indivdiuals in Clarinda are receiving some training. Clarinda Correctional Facility warden Stephen Weiss told the group how certain inmates are learning job and manufacturing skills at H&H Trailer in Clarinda.

“We have 1,000 potential employees,” he said. “But not all are employable.”

Certain inmates are assisting H&H trailer build their products on the prison complex.

“It creates opportunities for safer communities,” Weiss said. “And we are bringing them back in with a skill set, employable.”

Inmates who qualify to work are on duty eight hours a day, five days a week. Weiss said the crew builds 15 to 17 trailers a day.

“We realized over the years it’s our responsibility,” he said about inmates having a skill once released, comparing to what had been done in the past. “We gave them $100, a cheap coat and good luck.”

The prison provides up to 60 inmates for H&H. Skills learned range from electrical to welding.

“Housing is huge,” Weiss said about the released inmates starting their lives once released. “But the big one is employment. People won’t take the risk.”

Weiss said released inmates have seen both extremes. Some inform the employer they are an convicted felon. Others don’t, but have been discovered later on, and are dismissed for falsifying a job application.

“They do get hired,” Weiss said about released inmates.

In cooperation with Iowa Western Community College, some inmates have learned other skills from landscaping to developing bee hives for honey production.

“Some who have been released have started their own hives,” he said.

Of the approximate 1,000 inmates in Clarinda, it’s common to have up to 400 who are 18 months from being released.

Those in southwest Iowa interested in learning manufacturing skills can utilize Iowa Western Community College’s Center of Excellence for Advance Manufacturing. The courses are offered at the Clarinda campus.

“What are we to do to keep our skills up,” said Mary Landhuis, president of Lisle Corporation and EZ Way, both which partially funded the two-year course.

State Rep. Tom Shipley said the challenges discussed are throughout Southwest Iowa.

“The problem in Clarinda is not unique. It’s in Creston, Atlantic and Council Bluffs. We need people to show up and work.”

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