(The Center Square) – A new program will launch in early 2022 to assist Iowans find new jobs, Iowa Workforce Development Director Beth Townsend announced Wednesday.
Townsend spoke at Gov. Kim Reynolds’ news conference at Iowa Spring Manufacturing in Adel, noting the state’s unemployment was below 5 percent, and 86,000 job openings “spanning all industries” were unfilled. Nearly 67,900 Iowans are unemployed, up 300 from July and 18,100 lower than the year-ago level of 86,000, according to the agency.
Eighteen workforce advisors will meet weekly with individuals receiving benefits and use new technology to compare claimants’ work history with labor market information to “proactively and systemically” match them with jobs in their communities. Iowans receiving benefits will begin working with reemployment services in their first week of receiving benefits, instead of their fifth. There will be weekly audits of whether recipients of unemployment benefits are completing work-search requirements. Weekly work research requirements typically will increase from two to four, and the number of activities that qualify as a work search will decrease from 27 to 12. Exceptions include union workers, Townsend said.
“Iowa employers urgently need workforce to meet the demands of Iowa’s robust economic recovery, and we must have the same degree of urgency in getting Iowans back into the workforce and onto the next step in their careers,” Townsend said. “Our goal therefore must be to return unemployment to its original mission: a short-term, transitory program with a focus on reemployment as quickly as possible. Unemployment benefits were never intended to provide long-term support.”
Iowa Workforce Development Public Information Officer Jesse Dougherty told The Center Square in an emailed statement the agency’s goal is to “reset Iowa’s relationship with unemployment.”
“We’ll be using it to work with unemployed Iowans more intensively, earlier in the process, and get them back to work faster,” Dougherty said.
Dougherty said the 18 new positions will be hired through American Rescue Plan funding “but are expected to be absorbed, once the initial funding runs out, through normal attrition” at the agency.
“We don’t anticipate any layoffs,” he said.
Reynolds said at the conference that the agency is doing this to buck a trend of workers quitting jobs.
“While Iowa Workforce Development will continue to administer the unemployment insurance program for those who need it, the agency’s primary focus will be on rapid reemployment,” Reynolds said.
Iowa Workforce Development has held workforce roundtables to address shortages. There are more than 12,600 open positions across Iowa Business Council companies, according to third quarter survey results.