Want A Good-Paying Labor Job In Iowa? Here’s What You Need To Do

Graphic by Courier

When asked what career fields will have a lot of good-paying jobs to fill after the passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Craig Levine’s answer was simple: “All.”

“Everything, I mean from the person doing the dirt work to clear up the old highway to the person putting in the new highway to the ones installing the street lights by there to running the new sewer lines underneath it,” said Levine, a union electrician and president of Northwest Iowa Building Trades.

“It’s going be in all sorts of fields and in construction, it’s just going to hit everybody.”

Moody’s Analytics predicts that at its peak, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Acts will create more than 800,000 jobs across the country with a good number of those positions coming to Iowa.

The Hawkeye State will receive about $5 billion over five years from that package to spend on roads, bridges, broadband, airports, water quality, public transportation, an electric-vehicle charging network, cybersecurity, public transportation, climate issues, and more.

That amount of money—for comparison, Iowa’s 2020 fiscal year general fund budget was about $7.8 billion—coupled with the scope of the infrastructure projects will present many Iowans with an opportunity to enter some lucrative skilled professions.

There aren’t many firm details on when these projects will begin, but they will take place over a number of years so people have time to get skilled workforce training.

One place people can learn the skills they need to land one of those jobs is Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) or another of Iowa’s 14 additional community colleges.

DMACC has 12 locations in Central Iowa and its building trades program has a nearly 100% job placement rate, according to Jenny Foster, the college’s Industry & Technology Academic Dean.

“Any student who wants a job, there are jobs available,” Foster said. “The really cool thing about DMACC is because we have smaller class sizes, faculty know their students really well.”

The three-semester building trades program provides students with the skills to work in residential or commercial construction including blueprint reading, creating estimates, framing, drywall, trim work, concrete, roofing, siding, and more.

The program also provides a real-world learning environment. There are two full-time instructors in the program and the class is split in two with one group of students working on a commercial project while the other builds a home for Habitat for Humanity.

The familiarity between students and DMACC instructors allows the latter group to help students match up with employers who fit the student’s personality and ambition. Additionally, if students want to continue on and earn a two-year construction management degree, Foster said, that course is designed to accommodate a busy schedule.

“The second year can be completely online, so if they want to go out working and get a job, they can still finish their degree,” she said.

Foster said the construction management degree was something employers looked for when workers sought advancement. The second-year focuses on leadership, project management, and other things companies look for in supervisory roles.

It costs $9,300 to earn the building trades program diploma, but Foster warns not to let the sticker shock deter potential students. DMACC’s building trades diploma qualifies for the Future Ready Iowa Last-Dollar Scholarship program, which Foster said would cover the entire tuition cost.

“There’s no barrier there,” Foster said. “If they want to go to DMACC and get trained, they could have that free tuition, we help them find jobs, and there’s other resources available.”

Additionally, Foster said DMACC has other funding that can help students with textbooks, child-care costs, and transportation issues.

“If their car broke down and they can’t get to class, we have funds that can sometimes even pay for the cost of the repair so they can come to class,” Foster said. “Students have a lot going on. they’re going to school full time, some of them have to work full time; we want to try and remove as many barriers as we can.”

While the building trades diploma covers a number of base areas, DMACC has short-term programs that cover a wide range of areas connected to the Infrastructure Act including cybersecurity, diemaking, electrical trades, HVAC, telecommunications, welding, and more.

Another Path To A Good-Paying Skilled-Labor Job

If you want to get one of those good-paying jobs without attending a trade school, you could enter a paid-apprenticeship program through a union.

Jeff Shudak, a union plumber and president of the Western Iowa Labor Federation, recommends searching for a nearby union hall that suits your interest area and giving them a call.

“We all need workers,” he said.

Shudak noted he didn’t become a plumber until he was 30 and regrets not doing it sooner after finding how much they made.

“Right now, pretty much plumber or skilled tradespeople make anywhere between $80,000 and $100,000 every year,” Shudak said. “Some of the other benefits are—especially in the union—we have paid apprenticeships so we don’t have $200-$300-$400-$500,000 debts; we get paid to work when we’re in ‘college.'”

 

by Ty Rushing

11/18/21

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