Iowa’s community colleges and Iowa State University’s Center for Industrial Research and Service (CIRAS) today announced a new consortium to support the manufacturing sector in adapting to “Industry 4.0” — the global move toward digitalization and automation.

The new consortium includes key state associations and agencies that have agreed to partner for the best interest of manufacturing businesses, the Iowa Association of Community College Trustees and CIRAS said in a news release.

The partnering organizations will implement a statewide education and awareness campaign, with a goal of meeting the training needs of manufacturers of all sizes throughout Iowa, the organizations said. “In addition to customized training for the existing workforce, the group will develop and enhance certificate, diploma, and degree programs to ensure employers have access to advanced skills training and career pathways now and in the future.” organizers said.

In addition to IACCT and CIRAS, the consortium partners include:
• Iowa Association of Business and Industry.
• Iowa Department of Education.
• Iowa Economic Development Authority.
• Iowa Workforce Development.
• Professional Developers of Iowa.
• Institute for Decision-Making, University of Northern Iowa.

“Iowa has the right mix of relationships and resources to help our manufacturers remain competitive through a global technology revolution that is transforming factory floors and jobs,” Gov. Kim Reynolds said in a statement. “This important partnership addresses a critical need identified in the state’s Manufacturing 4.0 strategic plan by uniting key education and industry stakeholders in a comprehensive effort to prepare workers with the skills they need in an increasingly digital economy."

The initiative follows a January report from the Iowa Economic Development Authority: “Seizing the Manufacturing 4.0 Opportunity: A Strategic Plan for Iowa’s Manufacturing Industry,” which called for advancing the knowledge base, expertise and collaboration among businesses in the state.

“This initiative will allow us to collaborate with experts and other partners to benefit Iowa’s economy,” said Mike O’Donnell, associate director of CIRAS. “Manufacturers are facing a wave of technology that creates significant uncertainty in how to run your business. This partnership will help ensure that the manufacturing ecosystem in Iowa is creating clarity on how to develop your existing workforce to thrive.”

The partnership will respond to workforce, training/education and integration needs to help manufacturers address technology investments, the workforce pipeline and workforce talent challenges.

“Iowa’s 15 community colleges continue to lead the way in innovative and forward-thinking curriculum and training to meet the state’s workforce needs,” said Emily Shields, executive director of the Iowa Association of Community College Trustees.

The consortium began meeting earlier this month to set goals and timelines. More information will be posted on the IACCT website regarding the initiative.