Gov. Reynolds, Lt. Gov. Gregg visit Vermeer

Photo by Emily Hawk/Pella ChronicleGovernor Kim Reynolds and Lieutenant Governor Adam Gregg visited with apprentices who participate in the Future Ready Iowa Apprenticeship Program at Vermeer. Pictured from left to right are Wesley Heuschkel, Vermeer President and CEO Jason Andringa, Carson Reynolds, Tyler Sterk, Gregg, Reynolds, Hunter Kephart, Rebekkah Weers, Charles Vander Velden, Landon Toom and Vermeer's Chair of the Board Mary Andringa.

Gov. Kim Reynolds and Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg sat down with apprentices participating in the Future Ready Iowa Apprenticeship Program at Vermeer Corporation to hear about their thoughts and experiences.

The program aims to provide a work-based opportunity for students, partnering with local businesses to offer hands-on learning. During the school year, apprentices spend half of the day at a job site gaining experience in their profession, while the other half is spent in the classroom. Apprentices are also paid for their work.

“It takes everything you’ve learned in the classroom and applies it to your real life,” said Charles Vander Velden, the program’s first apprentice.

Reynolds asked what sparked the apprentices’ interest in the program, what they’ve learned and how she could enhance the program for the future.

The program was officially established after the Iowa House unanimously approved the Future Ready Iowa Act in March 2018. Reynolds signed the act into law on April 2, 2018. The goal of the legislation is for 70 percent of Iowa’s workforce to have education or training beyond high school by 2025.

“This was a program that was designed to solve a workforce challenge, but it also has a secondary and very important impact of providing opportunities in our rural communities,” said Gregg.

Pella High School was the first district to participate in the program through the school’s Career Academy. Apprenticeship programs offered through the academy include culinary arts, welding, engineering and nursing. Of the eight apprentices at Vermeer, two participate in the engineering program, and six participate in the welding program.

In addition to Vermeer Corporation, Weiler, Co-Line, Central College, PPI and Pella Corporation also offer apprenticeships. The program is also not limited to students but is open for learning adults.

“It’s really a community effort,” said Pella High School Assistant Principal Derek Schulte. “It’s very impressive to see everybody come to the table for a common goal. Whether that’s in our classroom, with our students, business partnerships or mentors, it’s just so instrumental. For our students, it’s been an invaluable resource to provide the skills that they want.”

In May of this year, more than $16 million in funding became available for three new programs. The Last Dollar Scholarship Program, Future Ready Iowa Grant Program and Future Ready Employer Innovation Fund will help Iowans get the education and training required for jobs and help employers get the skilled workers they need.

“Right now, we’re leading in that respective,” said Reynolds. “That’s another reason why we get the opportunity to share, at a national level, what we’re doing in this little, teeny, tiny state in the heartland of America … and how other states are looking to replicate that.”

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