On Tuesday at the Future Ready Iowa Summit in Des Moines, Gov. Kim Reynolds called for expanding opportunities for K-12 students to engage in real-world, professional experiences that connect the classroom to careers. 

One of the ways Iowa businesses and schools will be able to connect is through a new online clearinghouse that will launch in midsummer. The Iowa Clearinghouse for Work-Based Learning, scheduled to go live July 1, will list hundreds of work-based learning opportunities at companies across the state. 

Speaking to an audience of about 1,000 educators and business leaders at the Iowa Events Center, Reynolds also announced that the Iowa Department of Education will develop a blueprint by the end of 2019 for the work-based learning experiences that should be accessible to every student. 

"Each day, we're sharpening Iowa’s competitive edge in education and expanding our workplace partnerships with job-ready, STEM-savvy, lifelong learners," Reynolds said in a release. "It's vital our students think differently and explore their options when it comes to post-secondary education, so they can be adaptable in the disruptive economy of the future."

Iowa Workforce Development sent a work-based learning survey in January to more than 40,000 businesses across the state. Results from the survey were used to generate a list of work-based learning opportunities that are initial participants in the Iowa Clearinghouse for Work-Based Learning initiative, said Ryan Murphy, public service manager with IWD’s Labor Market Division. 

According to a summary sheet of the survey responses, 757 employers said they are currently participating in at least one of 18 different types of work-based learning programs. More than 1,300 other employers indicated they are interested in participating in such programs, which alphabetically range from apprenticeships to work site field trips. 

The survey remains open so that employers can continue to post opportunities, Murphy said at the conference. 

The online clearinghouse will be managed by the Iowa Department of Education to assist educators in finding appropriate work-based learning projects for their classrooms, said Jake Welchans, the program’s project manager. An informational website is now available, and the project dashboard that will list work-based learning opportunities is on schedule for the July 1 launch, he said. To access the website, click here.