Iowa awards $3.5M in apprenticeship money

DES MOINES — Iowa Workforce Development is making millions of dollars available to train and retain employees in the state. It’s one way officials are attempting to address Iowa’s workforce shortage.

Workforce Development is making $3.5 million in grants available to companies that want to create or expand apprenticeship programs, effectively giving employees on-the-job training while creating a pipeline to help solve the shortage of qualified employees for skilled jobs.

Iowa Workforce Development’s Apprenticeship Bureau Chief Kris Byan said this is good for employers, who need trained workers, and for employees, who want training in a field they want to work – and stay – in.

“With a registered apprenticeship program you have between a 93% and 94% retention rate,” said Byan. “Right now, there is a need for really good workers, and businesses are looking for different ways to get people in the pipeline and a registered apprenticeship is one of those activities that you can do that with.”

Companies can use the grants to either start a new apprenticeship program or expand an existing one, and can buy tools, training equipment and other necessities.

There are currently about 10,000 apprentices working and learning at Iowa companies.

Byam called apprenticeships an “earn and learn” opportunity, because they offer employees unique on the job training experiences while they are working in a field they have chosen and hope to make their future career.

“Not only is there the related training or the classroom work,” said Byan, “there is the on-the-job experience that is happening with a one-on-one mentor that allows for the apprentices to get paid simultaneously as they are getting educated.”

Even before the grants were announced, the number of apprentices was growing in Iowa. More than 5,400 joined companies last year alone.