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Relief grants to fuel training at Iowa Western, CHI Health
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Relief grants to fuel training at Iowa Western, CHI Health

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Welding student file

A student works in the welding lab at Iowa Western Community College.

Iowa Western Community College has been awarded a $172,700 Coronavirus Relief Registered Apprenticeship Incentive Grant to expand an existing apprenticeship, while CHI Health Missouri Valley has been awarded a $250,000 grant to develop a certified nursing assistant registered apprenticeship program.

The purpose of the grants is to increase the number of registered apprenticeships at postsecondary educational institutions and healthcare employers by providing funds for the purchase of equipment, tools, simulators, curriculum or other needed items, according to a press release from Iowa Workforce Development. It is also to expand opportunities for Iowans whose jobs have been affected by or eliminated because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Iowa Western will use its grant to create a mobile weld lab to allow critical hands-on training to take place while maintaining proper social distancing.

“We have a registered apprenticeship with Owen Industries in Carter Lake,” said Mark Stanley, vice president of economic and workforce development at Iowa Western. “We do training at Owen Industries, but with the coronavirus pandemic, it makes it harder to get too many students and keep them socially distanced. This was an opportunity for us to create a mobile weld lab so we could take it to Owen Industries and really increase the capacity for that welding apprenticeship with them.”

Two welding stations with generators are being mounted on a customized flatbed truck to create the open-air lab, said Starlyn Perdue, director of economic development at the college. The work is being done by TiNik Inc. of Oakland.

The college also purchased a trailer from H&H Trailers of Clarinda that can be used to haul supplies, including gas canisters, welder tips, etc., Perdue said.

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“We were able to use local companies,” she said.

The total cost is expected to be about $152,000, she said. The rest will be spent on supplies, including personal protective equipment.

The collaboration between the company and the college on the apprenticeship is in its fifth year, Perdue said.

“The majority of it is hands-on at Owen,” she said, adding that part of it is classroom learning at Iowa Western.

The apprenticeship is based on 144 hours per year for three years, but Perdue said the program is accelerated so the overall length is only two years. Four to eight students can go through the program at a time, but generally there are only four or five.

A mobile weld lab is something that had been on Iowa Western’s wish list for a while but never worked out before, Perdue said. She’s confident it will be used well into the future.

“All of our (industries) have a welder shortage,” she said.

CHI Health Missouri Valley will create a new certified nursing assistant registered apprenticeship program to help address the shortage of nurses and nursing assistants. The goal is to develop a program that can attract individuals who will then stay in the area, the press release stated.

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