Iowa has been working on its workforce for a long time. The state’s current labor market conditions are challenging employers who seek skilled workers. Some define the problem as a skills gap, others call it an overall workforce shortage, and still others blame current wage levels. Whatever the label, a growing disconnect between Iowa’s workforce supply and employer demands is threatening to weaken the state’s economic growth potential. So what’s to be done?
Month: May 2016
For Nancy Jacobs, it boils down to a tale of two departments. In April, Jacobs became human resources manager for Misty Harbor, a Fort Dodge boat manufacturer that has been working with CIRAS for several years to get leaner and improve its productivity. Misty Harbor last year credited training in disciplines such as Lean manufacturing and the Theory of Constraints, among others, with boosting the company’s bottom line by an estimated $2 million in new and retained sales. But the transformation is still in progress.
Think of it as an impending explosion in the dark: It’s coming at some point. It may be a time bomb or a firecracker. You don’t know how big, or how close to you, the eventual bang will be. You probably ought to find out. Experts say that’s roughly the current situation in Iowa’s food companies, many of whom can expect within months to feel the first full weight of important new federal safety regulations. A 2011 law called the U.S. Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) gave the FDA new powers to prevent outbreaks of foodborne disease. But the impact of new rules was largely delayed as authorities constructed complex standards and procedures.
A Cresco tool-and-die maker’s search for diversification has led the company, with CIRAS’ help, to stake out new territory as what may be the first Iowa business of its kind to produce parts for customers via additive manufacturing. Upper Iowa Tool & Die & Innovations, founded in 1978, purchased a new plastic-based 3-D printer earlier this year after conversations with CIRAS convinced the company to aim higher in its search for a way to differentiate from competitors. Since mid-April, Upper Iowa has been pitching its additive manufacturing capability both to new clients and as an add-on for services to existing customers.
The CIRAS Procurement Technical Assistance Program (PTAP) was recognized by its national peers in April for its extraordinary efforts to educate Iowa companies on the intricacies of government contracting.