SIOUX CITY | Gov. Kim Reynolds brought the Unleashing Opportunities tour of the state to Sioux City Friday, where she told business leaders, local lawmakers and city officials that she's pushing to improve worker training.
"Future Ready Iowa will have a real impact on Iowa," Reynolds told 150 guests at a luncheon sponsored by the Siouxland Chamber of Commerce meeting at the Sioux City Country Club.
The Republican governor was citing the program that the governor said will improve job prospects of 127,000 Iowans to bolster their educational achievement and workplace skills. Reynolds said Future Ready Iowa was her top priority in the Legislature for 2018, something she mentioned in the annual Condition of the State address to lawmakers last week as the year's legislative machinations began.
Her Friday message continued Reynolds' desire to boost workforce development, as she also stated in the September 2017 Tri-State Governors Conference in Sioux City.
The governor's initiative aims to ensure that 70 percent of workers in Iowa have received training or education beyond high school. Currently, 50 percent of Iowa workers have such training.
"I am going to get you a quote, write it down," Reynolds said in airing the 127,000 number of the additional people who will get advanced training within eight years.
Reynolds will request $2.6 million in fiscal year 2018-19 to launch the program.
Iowa had a 2.9 percent unemployment rate in November, well below the national rate of 4.1 percent. Reynolds said employers consistently express concern over being unable to find qualified workers for job openings.
Reynolds said she supports a scholarship to help people get two-year college degrees in high-demand job fields, along with an expanded Iowa registered apprenticeship program for small- and mid-sized employers.
Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg, the Hawarden, Iowa, native who spoke with Reynolds, said there are currently 59,318 open jobs in the state, as summarized by the Iowa Workforce Development website.
"We want to make sure we have opportunity and prosperity in every corner of Iowa," Gregg said.
In a question from the audience, Sioux City School District Superintendent Paul Gausman asked if Reynolds thinks a 1-cent sales tax that delivers money for school building projects will be extended beyond the current sunset of 2029.
Gausman said a continuing known stream of money is the only way the school district will be able to close old elementary schools and build new ones.
Regarding the outlook by legislators on that possible tax extension, Reynolds said, "There is still division on whether we should or shouldn't."
The one-cent sales tax has been in place in the city school district dating to the 1990s, and is estimated to give $14.2 million in 2018-19.