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Employer Innovation Fund awards $400,000 to 13 employers across Iowa

The first 13 recipients of Future Ready Iowa’s new Employer Innovation Fund have been announced.

The Employer Innovation Fund is a matching grant designed to help employers carry out solutions to help their employees achieve postsecondary training and education. The purpose of the grant is to provide opportunities for working Iowans to earn non-credit and for-credit postsecondary credentials leading to high-demand jobs in the state.

The first round of Employer Innovation Fund Grants will distribute over $400,000 in funds to employers all across the state.

“Employers are a critical part of reaching our Future Ready Iowa goal of having 70 percent of Iowans with postsecondary credentials by 2025,” said Director Beth Townsend, Iowa Workforce Development, in an announcement. “The Employer Innovation Fund is unique because it empowers employers to find creative ways to strengthen their local workforce and build upon Iowa’s talent pipeline.”

Employers, community leaders and others can apply by submitting a proposal for implementing a creative solution to their local workforce needs. The second round of Employer Innovation Fund applications will begin Sept. 4 and close on Nov. 8, 2019. 

The 13 Employer Innovation Fund Recipients are:

Ruan/Des Moines Area Community College – The grant will provide support for 3 students, who are currently employees of Ruan, to participate in DMACC’s Employer Sponsored Technology Pathway program that will include two parts of the Code DSM training. 

Four Oaks Family and Children’s Services – Four Oaks’ Total Child Workforce (TCW), will, in an effort to reach underserved youth who are not currently being reached by traditional education to employment programs, enroll 30 youth in Linn County in a program that will provide soft skill training, mentoring, and 4-week internships.

Kirkwood Community Colleges and ICRIowa – The Expanding Credentials through Pathways program will target 60 high school students with 25% representing marginalized and diverse populations.  Participants will complete a post-secondary CTE credential, earn high school credit, and participate in WBL that will lead to the pursuit of training in high demand occupations by working with local employers.

New Bohemian Innovation Collaborative – A 501(c)(3) organization that wants to award 10 scholarships to students for their Delta V coding program as part of their Diversity Tuition Award Program.  Scholarships would cover tuition, a laptop and textbooks. The program is 20 weeks long and 95% of past graduates have secured employment in the IT industry within 180 days of course completion, with an average starting salary of $70,000. 

Central College-Pella Talent Pipeline Apprenticeship School – Provides core curriculum for high-demand occupations with a primary focus of providing wrap around services for individuals seeking apprenticeship opportunities after high school.  The integrated system will provide professional mentorship as well as opportunities for participants to earn high demand stackable credentials and associates degrees in addition to completing apprenticeships. 

Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque – Enhance Opportunity Dubuque program.  This program will increase the skilled workforce through child care support for students while they obtain training at Northeast Iowa Community College in high-demand certificate programs in construction, health care, manufacturing and more.  Eligible students include low-skilled, under and unemployed individuals. The program will fund licensed child care for students while they are enrolled in training and for up to 12 months after obtaining eligible, full-time employment as the payer of last as the parent achieves self-sufficiency to afford ongoing costs of child care.

Oskaloosa School District– This project will increase the number of students gaining post-secondary education in the form of certificates and employment in high demand fields by providing transportation for students to attend Career Academies at Indian Hills Community College.  Currently students must transport themselves to take advantage of these programs which is a financial barrier to over 50% of the area population.

Franklin County Development Association –  The Association is partnering with Buresh Buildings, La Luz Hispana, a Latino outreach center, and North Iowa Area Community College.  This program seeks to increase awareness and understanding of high demand jobs in the area by addressing misconceptions and to provide funding support to address barriers such as books, childcare, fees, tools and transportation. 

McNeilus Companies – The company will partner with Riverland Community College to offer best in class welding training to individuals who have no welding skills. This model has proved successful in other locations. The Riceville location is short 20 welding positions and this program will bring the weld training on-site via the Riverland weld training trailer.  Three classes of 8 people per class will be held, with a goal of 20% diverse or underrepresented individuals who face barriers to employment. 

Mahaska Health Partnership – Lead by Mahaska Health in Oskaloosa this program will be addressing a critical shortage of medical laboratory assistants by identifying current high school seniors who have appropriate academic achievement and a socio-economic or financial need.  The goal is to remove financial barriers for students with a desire to attend the training program and have a guaranteed position after completion. Capacity is to identify and support 3 students.

The Well – Well Works is a program that employs and supports people who have previously struggled maintaining a job which happens for many different reasons.  Through an 18-month process of employment and education individuals who face significant barriers to successful employment are supported to success defined as graduating from the program, moving to stable employment and financial independence off of taxpayer funded programs. 

TMC Transportation – In partnership with Youth Shelter and Services (YSS) this program will create and implement a TMC Transportation and Logistics Training program which will address regional employment needs and provide paid training and employment for under-represented and low-income individuals living in Story County.  The program includes 6 CDL training program positions, 2 paid internships for Story County high school students and 2 paid logistics internships for Story County high school students.

Community Foundation of Greater Muscatine– This program will provide an intensive 6 week upskilling in the high-demand fields of welding and certified nursing assistants (CNAs) and participants will receive welding or CNA certificates. The project will target adults in low-income families of elementary-aged children receiving weekend “backpack” food subsidies in Muscatine. 

The descriptions of recipients listed above have been provided by Future Ready Iowa.

Previous coverage

$16 million in funding now available through Future Ready Iowa programs -June 4, 2019

Employer Innovation Fund awards $400,000 to 13 employers across Iowa | Clay & Milk
A central Iowa ag-tech accelerator has secured more backers and finally has a name. The Greater Des Moines Partnership first announced the accelerator last year, naming four initial investors. On Monday, the Partnership said the program will be called the "Iowa AgriTech Accelerator" and named three new investors. The new investors include Grinnell Mutual, Kent Corp. and Sukup Manufacturing, all Iowa companies. They join investors Deere & Co., Peoples Co., Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Co. and DuPont Pioneer. Each investor has agreed to put up $100,000 for the first year of the accelerator. Startups entering the program will receive $40,000 in seed funding in exchange for 6 percent equity. Tej Dhawan, an angel investor and local startup mentor, is serving as interim director until the AgriTech Accelerator names a permanent leader. Dhawan held a similar role with the GIA before Brian Hemesath was named as managing director. As interim director, Dhawan said his main job includes hiring the accelerator's executive director, establishing a business structure and initial recruiting for the first cohort. The accelerator will place few filters, such as location and product, on the applicant pool, Dhawan said. "When you’re seeking innovation, innovation can come from every corner of the world so why restrict ourselves," he said. One area the the AgriTech Accelerator won't recruit from is biotech. For its first cohort, the AgriTech Accelerator will work out of the GIA's space in Des Moines' East Village, Dhawan said. A future, permanent home is still to be decided. The accelerator's program will host startups from mid-July through mid-October, ending with an event connected to the annual World Food Prize. The GIA, which the AgriTech Accelerator is based on, also ends with presentations at an industry event. The accelerator has also started lining up a mentor pool. The Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Soybean Association and the Iowa Pork Producers Association have agreed to provide mentors, as has Iowa State University. While the AgriTech Accelerator is loosely based off of the GIA, it will differ in its business structure, Dhawan said. The GIA runs through a for-profit model for both operations and its investment fund. The AgriTech Accelerator will have a nonprofit model for its operations and a for-profit setup for its fund. Dhawan said the nonprofit model is being used so the accelerator can better work with other nonprofit partners, such as trade associations. "These are all organizations that are nonprofits and can be amazing stakeholders without ever having to be investors in the accelerator," he said. "It becomes easier to work with trade associations in their nonprofit role when we are also a nonprofit." When it's up and running, the AgriTech Accelerator would be one of a handful of ag-focused startup development programs in Iowa. Others include the Ag Startup Engine out of Iowa State University and the Rural Ventures Alliance from Iowa MicroLoan. Matthew Patane is the managing editor and co-founder of Clay & Milk. Send him an email at
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