Iowa Workforce Development unveils mobile career center to help Iowans find jobs

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Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks at the launch of Iowa’s first mobile workforce center outside of the Iowa State Capitol building, Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024. Zach Boyden-Holmes/The Register
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By Stephen Gruber-Miller, Des Moines Register

Iowa Workforce Development could soon be coming to your neighborhood.

The state will begin deploying a 32-foot long bus that will serve as an Iowa Works mobile workforce center, with career counselors and other Iowa Workforce Development employees helping unemployed Iowans find jobs.

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Gov. Kim Reynolds unveiled the bus Thursday at the Iowa Capitol. She said it will allow the state to assist when a community suffers significant job losses.

“It offers the same services and has the same technical capabilities that Iowans would find in any of our brick and mortar locations,” she said. “But it has the distinct advantage of being able to rapidly deploy to any area of the state where Iowans need help in finding jobs or where employers are working overtime to fill them.”

Reynolds said the bus can also help the state reach unemployed Iowans who aren’t aware of the resources that Iowa Workforce Development can provide for them.

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“Many Iowans don’t seek out Iowa Works for career assistance because they continue to think of it as an unemployment office,” she said. “And in reality, Iowa Works career planners provide one-on-one personal advice that seeks to match jobless Iowans with whatever resources they need to meet their career goals.”

Reynolds in 2022 signed legislation cutting the maximum number of weeks that Iowans can receive unemployment benefits each year from 26 weeks to 16 weeks and requiring Iowans to take lower-paying jobs sooner or risk losing their benefits. Her administration has also pursued other workforce initiatives, including creating a reemployment division within Iowa Workforce Development.

“Thanks to the changes made to shift the department’s focus from unemployment to reemployment, out of work Iowans are now spending just 9.6 weeks on unemployment,” Reynolds said. “And I want to say that again: 9.6 weeks on unemployment. That is the shortest amount of time in more than 50 years.”

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She also pointed to the state’s 3.2% unemployment rate and 67.7% labor participation rate as evidence of the state’s success in getting Iowans working.

Iowa Workforce Development Director Beth Townsend said the bus includes 10 workstations with computers and two television monitors that can be used for workshops and hiring fairs.

Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks at the launch of Iowa’s first mobile workforce center outside of the Iowa State Capitol building, Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024. Zach Boyden-Holmes/The Register

“The vehicle can provide the same services that can be received at our 18 physical Iowa Works locations with state of the art technology that can make the difference for job seekers and employers looking to fill their skilled workforce needs,” Townsend said.

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The bus will be across the street from the Ames Public Library on March 6 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., as well as at Camp Dodge on March 12 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. for an event focused on soldiers returning from basic training.

Businesses and communities can request that Iowa Workforce Development send the bus to their location through an online form.

The Iowa Workforce Development website also includes a calendar with all the scheduled events for the bus.

The bus cost a total of $479,000, which the state paid for through a combination of federal COVID-19 relief dollars and federal grants that support Iowa Workforce Development’s rapid response efforts to aid companies and workers affected by layoffs.

Stephen Gruber-Miller covers the Iowa Statehouse and politics for the Register. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or by phone at 515-284-8169. Follow him on Twitter at @sgrubermiller.

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