The welding shop at Iowa Central Community College is apparently a hot place to be for people hoping to learn a trade. Welding students are sometimes offered jobs before they complete their yearlong training program, according to college President Dan Kinney.
''We can't produce enough welders fast enough,'' he said Wednesday afternoon.
Welding is one of dozens of professions, many requiring mechanical and technical skills, in which the number of available jobs in the area exceeds the number of people trained to do the work.
-Messenger photos by Hans Madsen
Sen. Daryl Beall, D-Fort Dodge, and Rep. Helen Miller, D-Fort Dodge, top, listen as Sen. Jack Kibbie, D-Emmetsburg, left, speaks during a Town Hall meeting Wednesday at Iowa Central Community College to discuss job skills. State Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs, listens, far left.
''I do not believe Iowa has a work force shortage,'' said state Sen. Daryl Beall, D-Fort Dodge. ''We have a skilled worker shortage.''
As an initial step to addressing that shortage, Beall and Kinney joined other lawmakers Wednesday afternoon at Iowa Central Community College in Fort Dodge for a town hall meeting on job skills issues.
State Senate President Jack Kibbie, D-Emmetsburg; state Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs; and state Rep. Helen Miller, D-Fort Dodge; were the other lawmakers present.
They talked with about 15 representatives of the college, businesses and Iowa Workforce Development about things that lawmakers could do to ease the shortage.
The problem is extensive, according to Gronstal.
''It's all the way from adult basic education to training truck drivers to training nurses to take care of us baby boomers as we get older to training people to climb those big ladders to work on wind turbines,'' he said.
Dennis Plautz, the chief executive officer of the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance, said only two things can derail the expansion of the North Central Ag Industrial Park: a lack of trained workers and a lack of housing for those workers.
He added that Iowa Central Community College plays a key role in training local workers.
''If we didn't have Iowa Central here, we'd be in deep trouble,'' he said.
Gronstal said legislative Democrats are committed to providing money for worker training.
''I think now is the time for this,'' he said.
He said that five years from now, he would like to be able to tell business leaders that Iowa has the premier skilled worker training system in the nation.
Programs that help adults improve their reading skills may be one area the lawmakers attempt to invest in. Ann Waynar, the college's coordinator of adult literacy, told the legislators that there is no direct funding from the state for such programs.
Beall and Gronstal agreed that should be changed.
For some people in need of training, getting transportation to and from a school is a barrier, the lawmakers were told.
They also heard about programs such as Iowa Central's Diva Tech which introduces eighth-grade girls to technology.
Beall described Wednesday's session as ''meaty.''
''I have something to go to work on,'' he said.
Gronstal said the Senate Democrats will draft some workforce training bills to be introduced in the Legislature in January.