Investing in the Future: Ottumwa's High School Workforce Program Aims to Prepare Students for Career Success

Investing in the Future: Ottumwa's High School Workforce Program Aims to Prepare Students for Career Success Main Photo

13 Mar 2023


To address the challenges of career and technical education,  several strategies are being employed in Ottumwa. One of the primary goals is to create a roadmap that provides clear training pathways for multiple careers to create a talent pipeline for local businesses. The board is adopting sector strategies and career pathway approaches, two promising and related strategies, to improve the relevance and effectiveness of education and training programs in South Central Iowa.

Career pathways align multiple programs to make it easier for individuals to access, progress along, and complete pathways to industry-recognized credentials and family-supporting careers. The partnership with GOPIP, Business and Industry, Ottumwa Community Schools through the Career Academy, Gateway School, Indian Hills Community College and other training solutions aims to design career pathways that provide flexible scheduling, opportunities for acceleration, work-based learning, pre-apprenticeship, apprenticeship, extensive support, and counseling services. The partnership also includes navigation services that help participants identify and access the most efficient routes to credential attainment and careers through career and course mapping.

Krista Tedrow, Executive Director of the South Central Iowa Local Workforce Development Board, spoke to us about how workforce development needs are being addressed in the region:

  • What is your role in the field of workforce development, and how does your institution ensure that individuals are adequately prepared for the workforce, particularly in high-demand fields such as healthcare and technology?

I provide executive leadership to our 19-member board made up of business, labor, and government members, and to another board of 14 county supervisors. South Central Iowa Local Workforce Development Board (LWDB) is a non-profit organization overseeing the workforce services in the fourteen counties of Appanoose, Davis, Hardin, Jefferson, Keokuk, Lucas, Mahaska, Marshall, Monroe, Poweshiek, Tama, Van Buren, Wapello, and Wayne County in Iowa known as the South Central Iowa Workforce Area (SCIWA). We serve individuals and employers through services provided by a network of partners at IowaWORKS Centers located in Marshalltown and Ottumwa. The board sets funding priorities focused on workforce issues like wages, job mobility, access, and equity. We are able to pay for existing training and education programs or design training programs in any industry, including healthcare and technology. We are able to provide support for individuals that qualify and need assistance with gas, childcare, uniforms, books, tools, testing for industry certificates, and other needs to ensure that people have the resources needed to finish training to access a career opportunity.

  • How do you collaborate with local businesses and industries to identify and address the specific workforce needs of the Ottumwa community?

We have partnered with Greater Ottumwa Partners In Progress to purchase a Labor Market Information technology so we can pull reports to see the labor market needs and skill demands of the local area.

Now that we can more quickly identify the labor market trends we are working with local businesses and economic developers, and beginning to understand the skills that are in demand and foster the necessary industry sector partnerships, training, and credential programs for the local area. The board partnered with Indian Hills on a grant to design and start a healthcare industry sector partnership that the board will launch in the late summer of 2023. 

The board has also become an intermediary to help businesses seeking to design and develop registered apprenticeship programs as a workforce solution. 

  • Please give a brief description of some school programs that are aimed toward career development. 

IJAG - Iowa Jobs for America’s Graduates unlocks student potential. They help kids build the skills they need to be successful in the classroom, on the job, and in life. It’s the gift of self-sufficiency and it pays dividends to individuals, schools, employers, and communities.

Career Campus -The Ottumwa Schools’ Career Campus offers students increased learning opportunities in high-demand career fields. Located one block from Ottumwa High School in downtown Ottumwa, the recently remodeled, state-of-the-art facility provides opportunities for students to earn high school and college credits simultaneously.

Gateway Center: The Gateway Center serves students in grades 9-12 with a focus on personalized learning and is part of the district’s “Vision of Excellence,” the second phase of their “Be the Best” initiative.

Indian Hills Community College (IHCC) – Has programs preparing people for careers in advanced technology and health. IHCC offers 20 different certificate, diploma, and degree health programs with hands-on clinical and practicum experiences preparing health practitioners for the workplace. Whether you want to earn your degree or get certified in multiple health science programs IHCC will partner with you to ensure your success. Technology never stops changing. It’s the life-changing driving force of our world. IHCC offers over 30 advanced technology certificates, diplomas, and degree options. It’s a competitive market for technology careers. With a 93% graduate job placement rate across all programs, they ensure people with a desire to make an impact on the world are connected to jobs in their field of study. Indian Hills also has a Business Solutions division that will design short-term training to meet a business’s specific skills training needs through non-credit programs. 

Ottumwa IowaWORKS Center – The Ottumwa IowaWORKS center has many partners with programs to fund skills training. Services include Career counseling, Job search skills development, Locating and connecting to employment opportunities, Assistance with unemployment insurance claims, Academic skill testing, Hands-on computer classes, High school equivalency testing (HiSET) preparation, English Language Learning Classes, Citizenship Classes, Financial Literacy Classes, College research, Creating resumes and cover letters, and Preparing for interviews.

 By adopting sector strategies and career pathway approaches, the partnership is working towards improving the effectiveness of education and training programs in South Central Iowa, meeting the skill needs of in-demand industries, and preparing workers with the competencies and credentials needed for family-supporting careers in targeted industries and occupations. These efforts will contribute to creating a robust and diverse workforce in Ottumwa.