The economies in eastern Nebraska and western Iowa are expected to get a boost from a major, first-of-its-kind grant to a regional community college. A Texas-based software company is offering a $65-millon grant to Iowa Western Community College in Atlantic to develop a design technology program.
Dan Malliet, a senior vice president at Seimens, says the students will be trained to use software that’s being used by more than five-million engineers worldwide to build a wide variety of products and services.
“No doubt, this grant will enhance the career opportunities of students at Iowa Western, increase the availability of skilled workforces in Iowa and Nebraska businesses to help them grow,” Malliet says. “This is a win-win for the community and for kids and for economic growth.”
Malliet says the software grant includes a training and specialized software certification program so students can be ready to enter the workforce.
Jay Miller, an Atlantic native and former Siemens employee, was the driving force behind the four-year effort to bring the program to Atlantic. Miller says a combination of advancing technologies and an aging workforce created a real need for a new generation of employees in design technology.
He says an example of that need was demonstrated in a response to a recent survey conducted by Iowa Western’s advisory board.
Miller says a Rockwell Collins official in Cedar Rapids said over 50-percent of the company’s workforce will be eligble for retirement within ten years, while within five years, over 45-percent will be eligible. His company has five open positions today and he wishes the students who will be trained in the software program were available right now. Miller says the partnership between academia, industry and other volunteers made the effort possible.
Iowa Governor Terry Branstad says it’s one of his goals to bring 200-thousand new jobs to Iowa in the next five years. Branstad says the program at Iowa Western will benefit Siemens’ customers and will also bring more jobs to Iowa. The governor says he’ll do his best to make it happen, despite challenges.
Branstad says, “We in state government want to do our part to eliminate some of those obstacles, reducing the tax and regulatory burdens and having a more nimble economic development program.”
Branstad didn’t mention the cuts community colleges, like Iowa Western, will have to endure if his budget passes. Randy Pasch, president of Iowa Western’s Board of Trustees, made it clear that his college is struggling. Pasch says their business relationships are what’s allowed them to forge ahead and make the program being offered this fall in Atlantic, a reality.
“At a time when our board is dealing with serious budgetary issues as a result of shrinking funding, it’s a breath of fresh air to be involved with the private-public partnership that’s been forged around this project,” Pasch says. “Without support like that, the design technology program wouldn’t get off the ground.”
Thanks to Ric Hanson, KJAN, Atlantic