Programs for Unemployed, Underemployed Making Strides

A Kirkwood Welding student

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (October 25, 2017)—Students of Kirkwood Community College’s programs for the unemployed and underemployed have gainful employment per data collected by the college. Graduates are filling high demand jobs, and in turn are positively affecting the regional economy. Programs were established in partnership with United Way and other community support organizations to address workforce gaps and promote financial stability.

Since 2012, more than 2,000 students have earned their high school equivalency diploma (HSED), participated in short-term training earmarked for state funding (GAP) or industry-specific training pathways (KPACE). To track program effectiveness, Kirkwood captured employment and wage data during this timeframe.

In recent program assessments, the college performed comparative analysis using the State of Iowa’s unemployment insurance wage database. Analysis revealed substantial gains in employment and wage earnings for those completing the programs. The programs also appear to be effective tools in offsetting Iowa’s unemployment disparities.

The synergy of Kirkwood programs can be attributed to the successes in the findings. Of the 1,422 HSED recipients, 20 percent had a job prior to earning a diploma. Employment jumped to 55 percent upon completion. Wages increased by 27 percent as well, while 33 percent pursued higher education. More than 430 completed training for industries with worker shortages. Within a year, 92 percent were working and improved their wages by 83 percent. Additionally, 19 percent of those earning a credential continued their education.

Demographics most affected by postsecondary education were single-parent families and minorities. Single-parent families faired best with 91 percent landing a job within a year after training. This group also experienced wage gains of 90 percent. Sixty-eight percent of minorities who sought training completed their program. In at least three months post-training, 81 percent were employed with wages improving by 60 percent. Furthermore, minorities with a credential earned 71 percent higher wages compared to those who did not finish their training.

“Through High School Completion, GAP and KPACE, students receive educational guidance, funding and personal support. These findings show that barriers to employment can be removed,” said Vice President of Continuing Education and Outreach Services Kim Becicka. “We must ensure that these programs persist as they not only boost the economic vitality of the region, but support the goals of the Future Ready Iowa initiative.”

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