One year ago this month a Future Ready Iowa Alliance convened with the charge to develop, recommend and prioritize key strategies, policy steps and metrics to reach the goal of 70% of Iowans having education or training beyond high school by the year 2025. Their recommendations would be delivered to the Governor by October 31, 2017. Under the leadership of co-chairs Governor Kim Reynolds and Dan Houston, Chairman, President and CEO of Principal Financial, ably facilitated by Iowa Workforce Development Director Beth Townsend, it came to be and embeds much STEM. A dozen Alliance members serve on the STEM Council as well, assuring that the innovative solutions crafted for STEM appear on the radar of all Alliance members. Five comprehensive and inter-related recommendations set the stage for Future Ready Iowa, each with a STEM flair:
- The Future Ready Iowa Last-Dollar Scholarship and Grant Program, which supports postsecondary credential attainment at the associate and bachelor's degree levels in high-demand fields like STEM.
- Better align and expand the ecosystem of support for Iowans beginning college or career training or returning to complete, with a focus on Iowans who are low income and/or underrepresented minorities. It will involve programs to inspire adults to return to college or complete certification in high-demand skills areas, incorporating credit for life/professional experience and improving remediation success.
- Expand high-quality work-based learning experiences in high-demand fields and careers for all students, particularly traditionally underrepresented students, including teacher-externships and STEM BEST® models.
- Identify and scale effective early academic and career development and delivery approaches so all students are prepared for a changing world, including expansion of career information into content area coursework and emphasizing critical thinking and problem solving in class.
- Develop a grassroots strategy to engage the business community, sector boards, regional workforce boards, STEM regions and other regional collaborations to align with Alliance recommendations, including development of a "playbook" of best practices to strengthen relationships between businesses and education (see STEM's HERE).
The Future Ready Iowa recommendations are open for public comment. The future readiness of Iowa prominently features STEM.