Over 1,000 People Attend Future Ready Iowa Summit

Work-based learning, computer science in school and training today’s high school graduates for high-demand jobs in the state were big themes of the Governor’s 2018 Future Ready Iowa Summit on Tuesday. Access videos and presentations in their entirety on the Iowa Governor's STEM Advisory Council' website by clicking here.

The all-day event was hosted by the Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council, Iowa Workforce Development and the Office of the Governor of Iowa. U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, and Lieutenant Governor Adam Gregg addressed a crowd of more than 1,000 people. Summit-goers were able to experience work-based learning demonstrations from school/business partnerships across the state and learn from local and national experts in education and workforce policy. National keynote speakers included Brandon Busteed of Gallup, Nicole Smith of Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, Hadi Partovi of Code.org and former Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council Director Jeff Weld, who is currently serving as Assistant Director at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Governor Reynolds and Lt. Governor Adam Gregg kicked off the day by setting the focus on work-based learning opportunities in Iowa. “Iowans are eager for these life changing opportunities,” Governor Reynolds said of high school and college students in the state. “And employers are ready to hire them!” She and Iowa Department of Education Director Ryan Wise led a conversation between Governor Hickenlooper and Governor Hutchinson about the expansion of computer science education in their respective states. Later that afternoon, Secretary Acosta praised Iowa as being a leader in apprenticeship opportunities.

Gallup’s Executive Director of Education and Workforce Development Brandon Busteed spoke on the importance of work-based learning. “Are we measuring what we value?” he asked, referring to “horribly insufficient” current measures of quality education. To demonstrate the disconnect between educators’ and employers’ priorities, Busteed said employers will hire a student with a ‘B’ average who has internship experience over an ‘A’ student who has none.

Nicole Smith spoke on good jobs that pay without a Bachelor’s degree. Smith is the chief economist of Georgetown University’s Center on Education and spoke on the recent Good Jobs Report. The report defines a “good job” as one with earnings of at least $35,000 annually for those under age 45, and earnings of at least $45,000 annually for workers age 45 and older. Smith said more than half of Iowa’s workforce has a good job without holding a BA, and the median income for an Iowan with a good job is $53,000.

Code.org Founder and CEO Hadi Partovi presented on the importance of computer science in schools and to future job growth. “Computer science is for everyone,” Partovi said. “Technology is always changing. The burgeoning automation and technology movement doesn’t mean less jobs, it means different jobs.” Partovi used the invention of the automobile to demonstrate his point. While it pushed caretakers of horses out of the job market, it revolutionized transportation and ultimately led to hundreds of thousands of new jobs, the development of highways and transformed patterns of where people can choose to live in relation to their jobs, providing the workforce with countless new opportunities.

Partovi shared his vision of Code.org and its worldwide Hour of Code movement, which exposes children around the world to computer science. “An hour of code won’t compare to a computer science curriculum,” Partovi said, explaining his efforts to implement education policy around the U.S.to prepare high school graduates with the highly digital jobs of the near future. His message is poignant given Iowa’s current high school student classes are graduating with little exposure to this important, career-building skil. Despite recent legislation encouraging all high schools to provide computer science by the 2019-2020 academic year, Director Wise said 14% of 2017 high school graduates had taken only one rigorous computer science course.

The day concluded with Governor Kim Reynolds signing the Future Ready Iowa Bill, surrounded by elected officials, Future Ready Iowa Alliance members and high school students. Principal Financial Group President and CEO Dan Houston served as the co-chair on the Alliance, “This was one of the very few bills ever passed uncontested and unanimous across the House and the Senate, he said. “From every Democrat and from every Republican that prioritized Iowa first, prioritized education and making sure we’re ready for the next millennium.”