Education Means Business in Iowa

August 14, 2020 | Business in education Jessi McQuerrey, Director of Programs, ABI Foundation,

For years, business and industry has collectively raised a hand to the question of “who needs more skilled workforce?” No industry is exempt from this need as leadership, teams and talent span across generations who all think, learn and communicate differently in today’s workplace. At the heart of the response to this request is education.

Education in Iowa is working quickly to adapt—moving away from the hypothetical to the actual through the explosion of professional programs and student organizations, and the buzzwords you may have heard a time or two like “work-based learning” and “career and technical education.”

Educators and school districts are looking for a handshake, not a handout. Today’s classrooms rely on the expertise and open doors of partners in business and industry in exchange for cultivating your next wave of new hires. So what do they need from you if not a financial contribution? Here are some thoughts to get you started:

  • Access: Studies show that there is a higher success rate among students who have had an internship or apprenticeship experience, and these are hard to replicate anywhere other than in an industry setting. Opening your doors to students helps them to develop technical skills, explore a career path, connect with mentors and much more. In exchange, you get the chance to directly train your local workforce with the foundational skills you require for the future. Excellent resources are your school district’s work-based learning coordinator and your local Intermediary (, who can facilitate the experience and identify needs in your area.
  • Experience: The Future Ready Iowa Clearinghouse for Work-Based Learning is designed to foster increased equity and accessibility to work-based, project-based learning for students, and allows companies to easily submit projects to be completed (many that can even be accomplished virtually). No projects? No problem. Submit your company name to be included among the 1,400+ business partners who are open to ideas at
  • Guidance: One of the biggest assets an educator can have in his/her classroom today is YOU. They want to know the technology you’re using, the best practices in your industry, the technical skills you’re requiring and the type of young leaders you need. What resonates even more with students is if this information is delivered directly from you. You can do so by adding your voice to a local Sector Partnership (, offering to speak to a class or at a career-related event (even over Zoom!), or volunteering with a local Career and Technical Student Organization.

Finally, give an educator some (socially-distant) kudos. These career and technical education efforts are not only valuable, they’re also required for the success of their own K-12 and higher education programs, and may serve as a prerequisite to essential funding in the future. They deserve our best as they prepare our future.