Business leader: ‘Acute’ workforce shortage means recruiting high school students more vigorously

By: - September 15, 2021 5:27 pm

Des Moines businesses are short on skilled workers. (Photo by Perry Beeman/Iowa Capital Dispatch).

A crucial workforce shortage in Iowa makes it more important for businesses to meet with high-school students through an existing program, a business leader told the Iowa Rural Development Council Wednesday.

Joe Murphy, executive director of the Iowa Business Council, which represents 22 of Iowa’s largest employers, said the council is urging businesses to use the Iowa Intermediary Network to work with schools to develop future employees. The network helps students get ready for careers, often by learning through contacts with local businesses.

Business groups routinely list worker shortages as one of their top challenges in Iowa.

“Our members are experiencing the most acute workforce shortage (they’ve) ever experienced before,” Murphy said. 

Online outreach helps

Growth in online work through the network during the pandemic has strengthened ties among various businesses and K-12 schools, he added. 

“More importantly, these are tools that can be used from an equity standpoint. There are many young people who are not aware of the great opportunity within Iowa companies that they could have before them,” Murphy said. 

The council has worked with businesses to offer online work-based learning experiences. “These virtual work-based experiences open (students’) eyes to the possibilities of working in Iowa and working (for) a very lucrative wage,” Murphy said.

Recent efforts connected with 3,000 students, he added.

Free services

Joe Collins, a consultant with the Iowa Department of Education, said the intermediary network’s services are free. He said many businesses have told him they want help starting a program with local schools.

Rob Denson, president of Des Moines Area Community College, said about one-third of Iowa’s high school graduates don’t go to college or take additional training. That makes it difficult for businesses to hire skilled workers. 

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Perry Beeman
Perry Beeman

Perry Beeman has nearly 40 years of experience in Iowa journalism and has won national awards for environmental and business writing. He has written for The Des Moines Register and the Business Record, where he also served as managing editor. He also is former editorial director of Grinnell College. He co-authored the recently published book, "The $80 Billion Gamble," which details the lottery-rigging case of Eddie Tipton.