Employer Innovation Fund Success Stories | Future Ready Iowa
Official State of Iowa Website Here is how you know
Connecting Iowans
Future Ready Iowa

Employer Innovation Fund Success Stories

Employer Innovation Fund Success stories

The Future Ready Iowa Employer Innovation Fund has helped employers, educators, and organizations carry out creative solutions to train the local workforce. The grant supports projects that provide credit and non-credit training and education opportunities that help Iowans succeed in high-demand careers. 

State Center Police Department trains reserve officers to serve Iowa communities  

Watch the video feature here
Grant: Coronavirus Relief / Employer Innovation Fund 

The State Center Police Department was awarded $99,900 in October 2020 as part of a Coronavirus Relief / Employer Innovation Fund grant to create an Iowa Law Enforcement Academy Reserve Peace Officer training curriculum. Small Iowa communities traditionally depend on reserve officers to staff their departments, while larger departments view reserve officers as a pipeline from which they can recruit for fulltime roles. The COVID-19 pandemic had detrimental effects on the ability of many police departments to find recruits, while would-be officers faced difficulties in completing necessary training. 

State Center used grant funding to support lodging and meal costs for many reserve academy participants, who otherwise might not have been able to attend due to long distances associated with driving to State Center from across the state. Roughly $64,000 was spent on one-time expenditures for equipment that will allow the academy to continue into the future. 

Twenty reserve peace officers graduated from the first class, with 35 more graduating in a subsequent 2021 academy. A third academy was scheduled to begin in January 2021.  

One of the 2021 graduates was McKenna Link, who praised the academy as a place where a 5-foot, 2-inch female could test the waters of law enforcement and explore it as a career. In December, Link started a fulltime job as an officer for the Iowa State University Police Department.  

“I always looked up to police officers; to me, they’re heroes,” Link said. “It’s something that I completely wrote off, but it’s something that I always wanted to do if I’d given myself the chance. This program gave me the chance.” 

Marshall County 911 Communications Center fills vacancies with grant assistance

Grant: Coronavirus Relief / Employer Innovation Fund 

The Future Ready Iowa Coronavirus Relief Employer Innovation Fund has helped organizations across the state provide training and job opportunities for Iowans impacted by the Coronavirus. Find out how the Marshall County 911 Communications Center was able to fill their job openings and help a fellow Iowan find her dream career. Watch the story here.

Lakeside Village trains essential medical staff during the pandemic

Grant: Coronavirus Relief / Employer Innovation Fund 

Lakeside Village is a Senior Community Center in Panora, Iowa. With the help of the Coronavirus Relief Fund Employer Innovation Grant, the staff was able to receive certification as a Certified Nursing Assistant at a local CNA training center. Now they're able to better care for their senior citizens during the COVID-19 pandemic. Watch the story here.

Family Pet Veterinary Centers recruit new veterinary technicians 

Grant: Employer Innovation Fund (also received Coronavirus Relief Registered Apprenticeship grant) 

Family Pet Veterinary Centers in suburban Des Moines was awarded $123,621 through four grants in November and December 2020 to provide various training and assistance for individuals seeking to become veterinary technicians. (A strong need for veterinary technicians in Iowa was only exacerbated by the pandemic.) 

FPVC, a woman-owned business with three locations in West Des Moines and Norwalk, used two Employer Innovation Fund grants to provide uniforms and a 12-week IgniteVet Veterinary Assistant Course to six participants. A subsequent Coronavirus Relief Registered Apprenticeship grant expanded that to 11 participants and expanded the program to one year, along with providing access to an online platform, equipment, and digital textbooks. An Earn and Learn grant filled in some gaps by providing testing equipment, fear free dog behavior training fees, dentistry education, and other assistance – free on-the-job training that would have been valued at $17,000 per participant if offered in a traditional setting without the ability to work concurrently. 

Ultimately, 11 people completed the 12-week program, including 10 women. Three ultimately chose to pursue other careers, and one shifted to remote work. But seven continue to work fulltime at the FPVC toward completion of the Registered Apprenticeship and/or toward obtaining a degree and license as a Registered Veterinary Technician. Alongside the training, all of their wages have increased by an average of $2 per hour. 

The Iowa Women’s Foundation fast tracks child care needs with new training series 

Grant: Coronavirus Relief / Employer Innovation Fund 

The Iowa Women’s Foundation used $80,000 from a Coronavirus Relief / Employer Innovation Fund grant to support Child Care Ready, a no-cost, fast track professional child care training series that was provided in the fall of 2020. The program, provided through Iowa Child Care Resource and Referral, offered 16 educational sessions around the state where 157 people were able to receive required pre-certification training. Grant funding paid for the training costs, background checks, and finger printing, as well as assisting with child care and transportation. Participants also were given stipends and health and safety starter kits to aid them in setting up their own child care businesses.  

A total of 111 people ultimately completed the program. By March 2021, 81 had either been certified as state-registered in-home child care providers or were awaiting review of their applications to the state. Twelve participants went to work in child care centers. Forty-nine participants reported that their wages went up as a result of the training. 

The Iowa Chronic Care Consortium (ICCC) expands program to meet growing demand for Community Health Navigators  

Grant: Employer Innovation Fund  

The Iowa Chronic Care Consortium (ICCC) had planned to use $94,512 from a Coronavirus Relief / Employer Innovation Fund grant to train 25 people to become Community Health Navigators. Instead, they were faced with 45 people seeking to enroll in the program. With $27,000 in additional financial assistance from ICC and other funders, all 45 successfully completed the program and received a post-secondary noncredit certificate from Des Moines Area Community College. Fourteen of the 45 also received certificates for completing optional Contact Tracer Training. 

The ICCC points to this grant process as proof of the strong and growing demand for Community Health Navigators in Iowa. The position involves connecting patients to medical providers and community resources, as well as enhancing the mental, physical, and social health of patients by helping them develop a definite care plan. According to the ICCC, most of the 45 participants had been prompted to enroll by their employers. (Six unemployed people participated in the program, and five of those had jobs by the time the training had concluded.) 

Grant money was used to pay for student support (tuition, stipends, and educational materials) as well as to cover the cost of virtual instruction and administrative expenses. Of the 45 participants, 43 were members of what IWD considers to be populations under-represented in the Iowa workforce. 

Iowa EMBARC (the Ethnic Minorities of Burma Advocacy and Resource Center) prepares AmeriCorps workers for success 

Grant: Coronavirus Relief / Employer Innovation Fund 

Iowa EMBARC, the Ethnic Minorities of Burma Advocacy and Resource Center, used $50,985 from a Coronavirus Relief / Employer Innovation Fund grant to purchase training and equipment for 36 RISE AmeriCorps workers. Beginning at the end of 2020, 36 participants received online WorkReady Navigators education and training in how to help refugee and immigrant clients obtain and maintain employment. Covered topics included navigating the job application process, understanding and enhancing soft skills, worker rights, and a review of broad success strategies.  

Grant money purchased the training modules, as well as laptops, tracking systems, and software for RISE staff, who then began working with clients around the state.

One of the training recipients was Mandy Grimm, Columbus Junction Public Library director and RISE supervisor, who then used her training to educate high school seniors about resumes, cover letters, and job applications. More than 45 percent of the Columbus Junction population is Hispanic, and RISE workers have been focused on helping residents clear obstacles and boost their self-sufficiency. 

“As a community employer who hires for many positions, I was kind of appalled by the resumes I was getting from our school students,” Grimm said. “A work readiness class is one way we could address some of these needs without creating more work for our school staff.” 

As of March 2021, RISE AmeriCorps workers in Iowa had assisted more than 116 clients in obtaining education and training with a goal of securing employment in high-demand fields. 

Iowa Prison Industries provides critical vocational training to incarcerated men 

Grant: Coronavirus Relief / Employer Innovation Fund 

Iowa Prison Industries received $100,000 from a Coronavirus Relief / Employer Innovation Fund grant at the end of 2020 to provide vocational training to men incarcerated at the North Central Correctional Facility in Rockwell City. The pandemic limited opportunities for this population, which includes inmates that are soon to be released. The grant provided training, testing, and work opportunities leading to American Welding Society Qualification and OSHA 10 certificates. 

Michael Hart was one of the inmates trained under the grant program. He since has been released and works fulltime making New Way garbage trucks at Scranton Manufacturing, the largest privately held manufacturer of refuse equipment in North America.  

“Working in the private sector allowed me to pay all off my fines, so when I got out, I didn’t owe anything else,” Hart said. “I like what I do and get along good with everyone I work with. The money is good, too!” 

Scranton Manufacturing originally partnered with Iowa Prison Industries because the company had struggled to find enough skilled welders to keep up with its demand. Scranton originally had IPI produce weldments inside the Rockwell City prison but then found that the public-private partnership allowed the company to train and recruit men while they were still incarcerated. 

“Initially, we conducted some training on-site at the prison and soon found their quality and productivity quickly met our expectations,” said Jim Ober, vice president of operations at Scranton Manufacturing. “We are so proud to see these individuals grow their skills while in the system and then be able to provide them a fulltime, good-paying job once they are released.” 

Iowa Lakes Community College doubles program goal to help over 200 in Northwest Iowa prepare for the workforce 

Grant: Coronavirus Relief / Employer Innovation Fund 

Iowa Lakes Community College received $100,000 as part of a Coronavirus Relief / Employer Innovation Fund grant in September 2020. Working with a group of 16 businesses and support agencies, the college had intended to work with 100 participants to obtain certification and placement in a variety of jobs. Instead, they received more than twice that level of interest. 

Working with additional money raised by individual companies, Iowa Lakes held classes for 244 people within the first 90 days after the grant was awarded. Project funds paid for the tuition of 238 people, as well as $10,000 for the college’s project implementation, oversight, and evaluation costs.  

Provided courses including Intro to GIS, three levels of Excel from Beginning to Advanced, Electrical Maintenance I and II, Class A CDL Licensure, Commercial Drone Licensure prep, and more. 

Goodwill of the Heartland changes the lives of Iowans with extensive wrap around services  

Grant: Coronavirus Relief / Employer Innovation Fund 
Goodwill of the Heartland received $249,893 from a Coronavirus Relief / Employer Innovation Fund grant to support 45 Iowans who were enrolled in courses in health care, information technology, or manufacturing while earning a wage and receiving extensive wrap around services to ensure their completion and success.  

A few months after the award, 37 of the participants had completed their training, and four were still working on completing their course. Of those who finished, 35 were employed and two had started their own businesses. 

One of them was Lorenzo, who was laid off during the pandemic and joined the program to study information technology. After completing the course, Lorenzo was hired by the University of Iowa and has since earned a promotion that pushed his wages to $24 per hour.