Reynolds promotes initiatives in Spencer

Thursday, June 21, 2012
Maurer Manufacturing General Manager Chris Tostenrud, left, points out the Spencer plant's features to Iowa Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds during a Tuesday afternoon tour. (Photo by Gabe Licht)

During a visit to Spencer, Iowa Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds toured Maurer Manufacturing, applauded their efforts to engage students and promoted initiatives to build a skilled workforce in Iowa.

"They're implementing a great program with Spencer High School, where they're working with the high school to get kids engaged in welding, give them the opportunity and see if that's something they want to do," Reynolds said following the tour.

She believes Maurer's efforts to provide equipment to the high school and scholarships for students interested in industrial fields fit well with the state's STEM Initiative, which stands for science, technology, engineering and math.

"That's exactly what we're trying to do," Reynolds said. "We want to find programs like that and emulate them throughout the state."

While Maurer is currently fully staffed with more than 90 employees, according to general manager Chris Tostenrud, that is not always the case. Tostenrud said the company is often looking for welders and other skilled workers.

Reynolds noted that many companies are looking to hire.

"Typically, what I hear as I travel across the state to various businesses is they have job openings right now," Reynolds said. "They are good-paying jobs and they are having a hard time finding the skill set they need to fill the positions."

She and Gov. Terry Branstad hope the Skilled Iowa Initiative can help fill the gap.

"Individuals who are unemployed will be able to work with an employer that's willing to take them on and they will continue to receive their unemployment benefits for six months while they're working with an employer to get on-the-job training to see if they can meet that skill set or need," Reynolds said. "And, it gives employers an opportunity to work with them and see if it's somebody they want to bring on full-time."

Promoting and utilizing the National Career Readiness Certificate testing, to assess individuals' skill sets, is also part of the initiative.

"I'm hoping at the different regional (STEM) hubs we have, we'll also have the ability to take the testing for the NCRC," Reynolds said. "It will be another way for us to market it and get the word out in different regions."

Iowa Lakes Community College is the STEM hub for northwest Iowa.

Both education and commercial property tax reform remain priorities for the Branstad administration. The Iowa Legislature has discussed tax reform for two years, but has failed to pass a bill.

"That will continue to be a priority," Reynolds said. "It's the third highest in the nation. It's a deterrent to businesses expanding and growing within the state of Iowa."

Improving education will have two primary benefits, according to the lieutenant governor.

"We want to make sure we have an educated workforce, not only so they can compete globally, but also so we can market the fact that we have an outstanding workforce in the state of Iowa and they're hard workers," Reynolds said.

Her goal is for high school graduates to be "career-ready or post-secondary education ready," and she hopes businesses play a role in achieving that.

"I would encourage businesses out there to talk to high schools or work with the STEM Initiative and offer internships for students."

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