Media Highlights

Opportunity in Iowa Summit Recap

by Cara Willis   •  

Earlier in April, civic, education, nonprofit and political leaders from across Central Iowa participated in Opportunity in Iowa: Closing the Gaps Between Youth and Economic Success, a forum held at Des Moines Area Community College. The day featured a number of speakers sharing insights and best practices on connecting youth to employment pathways.

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad knows Opportunity is the word – and DMACC is the place to hear it. Governor Branstad began his speech by praising the leadership of Opportunity Nation and Opportunity Iowa:  “I’m grateful that Opportunity Nation and our local Opportunity Iowa are helping Iowans to focus on the urgent need to help more young people get education and jobs training they need tosucceed.” Governor Branstad spoke of the need to have a holistic approach to closing the state’s opportunity gap, and identified strengthening educational pathways as the key to doing it. In order to address the issue of many students needing remedial classes onceenrolling in community college, Governor Branstad highlighted his administration’s policy proposals to better serve the state’s young people. The proposed bill would implement new teacher leadership structures to better raise achievement for students and improve skills of teachers. “In order to better reach each of our students’ needs,” Branstad said, “we need a 21st century teaching model.

Watch Governor Branstad and President Denson at the Opportunity in Iowa Forum

President of DMACC, Rob Denson was sure to focus the audience’s attention on Iowa. “We are in a global society, but let’s not forget that we are Iowans, in a state of ours.” Denson, a member of Opportunity Nation’s Leadership Council and native Iowan, is  confident in Iowa’s Opportunity Index score but knows there is room for growth. “There’s not a problem Iowans can’t solve!”

A business partner of DMACC, Vermeer Corporation attended to demonstrate the importance of private sector collaboration with community colleges.  Richard Kacmarynski spoke about Vemeer as an employer and the various strategies they utilize to invest in their workforce. Highlighting students-turned-employees that have come to Vemeer through workforce development programs, Kacmarynski shared succes stories like a student currently enrolled in the Vemeer Skills Scholars program, an industrial maintenance student at DMACC. “We know we will need industrial maintenance people for the long haul, so we are investing in him.”

Watch Richard Kacmarynski at the Opportunity in Iowa Forum

There were great ideas shared and plans outlined, so check out the videos above as well as Mark Edwards’ speech below. Opportunity Iowa is energized and ready to work to improve their Opportunity Index scores – as Governor Branstad said, “By many measures Iowa is doing well. But we are not satisfied with #7, we want to be #1, and that’s why we want to work harder.”

Watch Mark Edwards at the Opportunity in Iowa Forum

Cara Willis

Cara Willis is the Director of Communications at Opportunity Nation, leading the campaign’s efforts to make economic opportunity a central part of the national dialogue. Cara also directs all of the campaign’s major events, including the National Opportunity Summit. Read Cara's bio.

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