Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds and the Iowa Department of Education awarded three $1 million competitive grants through the new Career Academy Incentive Fund to prepare more high school students for success in college, postsecondary training and the workforce.
Eastern Iowa Community Colleges, Indian Hills Community College and Waterloo Community Schools each won a $1 million grant to increase access to career academy programs in high-demand fields through new and expanded regional centers.
EICC’s grant will be used to build a Career and Technical Education (CTE) Center in the Crossroads Industrial Park in DeWitt, bringing more career and technical education opportunities to community members and high school students in Clinton and Jackson counties, according to CCC President Brian Kelly.
Established through the reauthorization of the Secure an Advanced Vision for Education fund in 2019, the Career Academy Incentive Fund provides targeted grants to support partnerships between school districts and community colleges that expand access to hands-on career training programs, with a focus on programming delivered through regional centers. In addition to this grant, the college is asking voters to consider a March 2 bond referendum that would help fund the project.
“The support from the state illustrates strong consistent support for our vision to provide increased opportunities for Eastern Iowans,” said Kelly. “With all of our regional economic development groups and all eight Clinton and Jackson county school districts supporting and contributing to this effort, we are excited to add this grant and state level support to ensure members of our community have equitable access to these workforce-driven educational opportunities.”
Construction of this new regional center will significantly increase opportunities for area high schools to participate in the college’s career academy offerings, Kelly said, adding that career academies provide students the opportunity to receive hands-on career training and college credits while still in high school.
To earn the $1 million grant, EICC had to meet specific criteria, including the ability to offer at least four career academies and serve a minimum of four school districts.
The new facility will support the following planned programs: Agriculture, Business, Construction Technology, CNC Machining, Healthcare and Information Technology.
Reducing barriers is at the heart of the Career Academy and Regional Center proposal, Kelly said. These career academies provide a clear career path and goal for high school students and are especially beneficial for students who might not have the opportunity to pursue further education or training after high school.
“The economic growth and development of our region requires a trained and skilled workforce, and currently our rural areas are underserved by career and technical education opportunities,” Kelly said.
Career academy programs are offered by EICC on all three campuses of Clinton, Muscatine and Scott community colleges.
Expanding student access to high-quality career and technical education is part of the Future Ready Iowa initiative, which is focused on growing a skilled workforce in all regions of the state by connecting more Iowans to the education and training needed for high-demand careers. The funding will be distributed over a three-year-period.
“Through these partnerships, students often earn industry credentials and certificates that they can take directly into the workforce and be highly marketable, or have a solid foundation to succeed in further postsecondary education,” said Iowa Department of Education Director Ann Lebo. “This is a great step toward ensuring all students have the opportunities career academies offer, and I am looking forward to more of these innovative partnerships being established.”
Waterloo’s funds will be used to expand its career center, which serves seven surrounding school districts and three nonpublic schools. Indian Hills will establish a new regional center in Centerville for seven southern Iowa school districts. At these locations, students will have access to career and technical education programs in high-demand fields, including health care, advanced manufacturing, welding, engineering technology and agricultural sciences.
“Expanding career academies develops our workforce talent pipeline and prepares high school students for high-skill, in-demand careers right here in Iowa. It’s about our students being able to find something they’re passionate about while also earning valuable industry experience and college credit,” said Reynolds. “I commend EICC, Indian Hills and Waterloo for their leadership in growing career academies to meet the needs of students, families, schools and employers in their local communities.”