Washington Evening Journal
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Fairfield Ledger   Mt. Pleasant News
Neighbors Growing Together | Jun 26, 2017

What your levy gets

By Kirkwood Community College

A nationwide study of 4 million people released by ACT of Iowa City in July supports what we have known for a long time: students who train for middle skill, or “gold collar,” careers are well trained for their careers and possess the skills to be immediately useful in the workplace.
The study suggests a skills gap exists for those with no college degree and, surprisingly, for those who have bachelor’s through doctoral degrees; however, students trained for middle skills jobs had exactly what they needed to succeed in the workplace. About 50 percent of Iowa’s available and growing career fields are considered middle skill: careers in nursing and health care, computers, law enforcement, machining, energy production and culinary arts all fall into this category.
That middle skills trained workers have adequate training for workplace expectations is no surprise. Kirkwood Community College has worked tirelessly to ensure students graduate with the tools to contribute to the Creative Corridor economy. Kirkwood remains committed to its lead role in workforce training, because it’s imperative to us to fill the needs of regional employers.
A recent survey of Kirkwood graduates discovered 97 percent were satisfied with their Kirkwood education. Ninety percent of respondents are currently employed and 95 percent live or work in Iowa. As the community’s college, Kirkwood focuses on what students need today to get a great local career. Keeping graduates who live, work and play in the Creative Corridor is an important workforce role.
Kirkwood’s varied workforce funding streams work together to create successful workforce development strategies. Currently, Kirkwood receives more than half of its funding through tuition and fees. Kirkwood Foundation scholarships, critical for student success, are privately funded by generous local support. Federal and state support equate to about a third of the annual operating budget. Local funding, through bond issues and property tax levies, is about 10 percent of the budget.
Access to up-to-date technical equipment is critical to the success of middle skills training.  Without technology labs and equipment, students would not be able to receive hands-on experience, designed to simulate today’s work environments. This is especially critical for the manufacturing, health care, agriculture and information technology occupational fields.
Kirkwood has two property tax levies that are renewed every 10 years. The first is the 20.25-cent plant fund levy that taxpayers approved in 2009, which can only be used to build or remodel facilities. The second is a six-cent per $1,000 valuation levy that funds equipment purchases, which essentially supports the state-of-the-art labs we’re able to provide for students, who, in turn, enter the work force as better trained employees. The 6-cent levy costs a taxpayer who owns a $100,000 home about $3 per year.
This year, voters will go to the polls to vote on renewing the college’s 6-cent equipment levy. So, where does that money go? Over the past nine years, Kirkwood used this funding for:
Programmable logic controllers and variable frequency drive systems for Kirkwood’s new Automation and Instrumentation program.
A solar photovoltaic trainer for our Energy Distribution, Construction Management & Architectural Technology programs
Computers for student computer labs and classrooms.
X-ray equipment for our Dental Technology program.
Hi-fidelity medical simulators for our Nursing and Paramedic programs.
The majority of all lab equipment at the college’s new regional centers. The estimated cost for equipping the Linn County Regional Center labs in Hiawatha is over $1 million.
Computers for the student math lab.
Microscopes, potters’ wheels, masonry saws, lab servers and switches and stationary food mixers.
Simulation truck for our Diesel Truck Technology program.
These are just a few examples of what the levy dollars purchase. Kirkwood is the community’s college. Without our community’s support, we couldn’t offer the breadth and depth of hands-on, industry-standard labs that we currently do. The highly technical programs with significant workforce demand are also the expensive programs to equip. However, as demonstrated by ACT’s study, development of middle skills workers is critical to the regional economy. Don’t forget to vote Sept. 10.