Input from Iowa WorkForce, Job Corps integral
by Gordon Wolf
Collaboration with Denison Job Corps Center will allow Western Iowa Tech Community College (WITCC) in Denison to begin offering welding courses this fall to help fill the job market demand for trained welders.
Investigation in the past several years by WITCC administration and board members showed that the community college couldn’t offer the courses on its own because of the financial situation.
“The only way we can do this was with the cooperation and funding available to Denison Job Corps, so we are very grateful for the cooperation of Denison Job Corps,” WITCC Board member Rick Franck said.
Doug Dorhout, director of WITCC’s Denison campus and Mapleton center pointed out that establishing the program was a collaborative effort, and he credited the perseverance and ongoing support of Franck and WITCC President Dr. Terry Murrell as being key, along with the support of the entire board.
Other entities were integral in the support needed to make the welding courses a reality.
Sherri Vaughn at Iowa WorkForce Development provided input that showed a need to offer training in welding, based on the demand from area businesses.
She worked with businesses to learn which ones need welders, and asked those businesses for letters of support. Those letters were submitted to Job Corps, which submitted the letters to WITCC and the Department of Labor.
“We have companies in Greene and Carroll counties looking for at least 15 welders,” Vaughn said, adding that three or four businesses in Crawford County need more welders.
She said IowaWorks and employers that need welders are excited about the programs at WITCC.
“I believe more businesses would expand if they could hire more welders,” she said.
Because of the shortage, Vaughn said that employers have been increasing the pay to attract welders.
The high demand and good pay for trained welders fits in with WITCC’s role, said Franck, which is to help people upskill and improve their family income and to make sure employers have the skilled employees they need.
With existing space for welding programs at the Denison WITCC building, equipment cost and instruction cost of the program is what the community college needed.
“The U.S. Department of Labor is providing the funding to the Job Corps centers. The Department of Labor approves the programs that Management Training Corporation (MTC) offers at Denison Job Corps,” Franck explained. “We (WITCC) provide the training.”
MTC is a corporation that contracts with the Department of Labor to manage a number of Job Corps centers, including the one at Denison.
Franck said it is another example of the value of having a Job Corps center in Denison.
Jim Whitmire, Denison Job Corps Center director, said the center staff is excited about the ability to offer welding to their students.
“We’ve received a lot of feedback about welding and the need in our area and across the entire state for welders,” said Whitmire.
He said Job Corps students enrolled in welding will receive all the career services and career readiness services offered by Job Corps.
“We feel it’s going to add to our capacity and increase the diversity of our trade offerings, and serve more students from Iowa,” Whitmire said.
“One of the things I’ve said is we can’t do more with less,” Franck said. “You do less with less, and there are other demands on funding with all the programs in all the counties we serve. We have to find creative ways to meet the need.”
The partnership with Job Corps was that creative way.
“Dr. Terry Murrell has done an outstanding job of improving and expanding programs with Denison Job Corps, MTC and the Department of Labor,” Franck said. “The welding program is meeting a heretofore unmet need for the Department of Labor and Crawford County.”
He said the advantage of community colleges is that they can respond quickly to changes in the job market.
“We don’t have to take five years to develop a curriculum because we have locally elected people trying to be very responsible to the communities,” he said.
Franck pointed to a study done by Economic Modeling Specialists (Emsi) for the Iowa Department of Education and Iowa WorkForce Development on the effectiveness of the return on investment in community colleges.
Results of the study showed that Iowa community college students:
- Collect $6.50 in lifetime earnings for every $1 invested
- See a 25.3 % annual average rate of return on their investment
- Have a payback on their educational investment of 5.7 years
- Receive a median entry level salary 30.7% higher than national entry level wages working in Iowa with an A.A. degree
The study also showed that community colleges form the largest postsecondary education system in Iowa with 135,567 credit students and 240,939 non-credit students.
The number of students served by worker training programs in fiscal year 2016 was 98,807. Community colleges have a 10.4 percent return on investment on state and local government funding, and 81 percent of community college students remain in Iowa to contribute to the state’s economy.