Iowa Raises National Opportunity Index Score•
Iowa has moved from seventh to sixth on the Opportunity Nation Index state rankings. The index uses data on jobs, economy, education, community health and civic life to measure opportunity for upward mobility for Americans where they live.
“We are pleased that the work of so many Iowans is showing up in the national rankings,” said Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) President and Opportunity Iowa Board Member Rob Denson. “Iowa is a great place to live, work and get an education, by looking at these factors and making improvements we can make Iowa even better for everyone.”
DMACC, the Community Foundation of Great Des Moines, United Way of Central Iowa, Character Counts, Boys and Girls Club of Central Iowa, Iowa Jobs for America’s Graduates (iJAG), AARP and several other groups are working on the Opportunity Iowa campaign.
“Working through Opportunity Iowa we have taken a number of very intentional steps to improve results in areas needing the most attention,” said Opportunity Iowa board member and former Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines CEO Barry Griswell. “We are gratified to see improvements that enabled us to move up in the Index. We have the right people in place to make a real difference in the lives of Iowans.”
Opportunity Iowa is an affiliate of the national organization Opportunity Nation. The guiding principle is that the zip code you were born in should not determine your chances for success. Click here to see how your city or county ranks in the Opportunity Index.
“The Opportunity Index is the first statistical measure of the American Dream,” said Executive Director of Opportunity Nation Mark Edwards. “With leaders like Rob Denson, Governor Branstad and Barry Griswell more Iowans will have the chance to gain valuable job skills that will help them get good-paying jobs in the 21st century economy. We see this commitment reflected in the state’s high ranking on the Opportunity Index.”
Areas with higher numbers of young adults engaged in an education program or gainfully employed have higher opportunity scores, while areas with large numbers of disconnected youth have lower opportunity scores.
“Community Colleges are a valuable resource for improving opportunities,” said Denson.
Denson highlights General Education Degree (GED) programs, DMACC’s Youthbuild; a program for at-risk you who receive construction and carpentry training while earning college credits and Gateway to College; a program that focuses on high school dropouts and giving them a chance to earn a high school diploma and college credits as some of the ways leaders are working to engage youth.
Denson says the Opportunity Iowa group will continue to take steps to improve opportunities including a program starting in the summer of 2014 that will help Des Moines students find paying jobs. Denson said the city-wide initiative will help students gain valuable job skills.
In April of 2013, DMACC hosted the first Opportunity Iowa Youth summit, bringing together educators, non-profit organizations and others who work with young people to brainstorm ideas for increasing Iowa’s Opportunity index. DMACC Ambassador Mary Chapman helped organize the summit. Chapman works to connect youth with the organizations available to help them; her hope is that Iowa will continue to boost its rating on the Opportunity Index.
“Iowa has its sights on number five and beyond,” said Chapman.
This is the third year the national index has been published. Denson and Griswell serve on the National Opportunity Leadership Council.