Think regionally about education

Steven E. Zumbach | Shareholder, Belin McCormick PC

The Idea: Establish a regional education and technology transfer organization to connect and strengthen the bond between education and the private sector.

Those regions that can educate, train and retrain their workforces and transfer technology from their research institutions to the private sector will excel. Knowledge is growing at an accelerating rate, and economies will excel or decline based on their ability to provide continuing education to their workforce. In order for Central Iowa to continue competing, educational institutions must quickly and efficiently provide accessible educational opportunities to Central Iowa’s workforce and transfer technology.

Iowans have always placed a high priority on education and research. Iowa was a leader in an educational revolution when it was the first state in the nation to accept the terms of the Morrill Act in the 1860s to create a land grant university — now Iowa State University. Iowa’s mission in accepting the terms of the Morrill Act, and the “Extension Service” it created, was, and still is, to deliver courses to people all over the state, and to transfer technology developed in its research laboratories to the private sector.

Iowa was one of the first states to develop a statewide system of area community colleges. Des Moines Area Community College serves Central Iowa and is widely recognized for improving innovative ways to provide new courses and programs that train the workforce to meet the needs of employers in the region. There are also 13 private colleges in the region that, in addition to providing traditional liberal arts programs, provide a wide range of professional and technical programs in math and science.

A strong and diverse education infrastructure is one of the reasons Central Iowa has experienced a strong economy with sustained growth. To continue to compete, much more needs to be done.

The colleges and universities in the region and DMACC must develop educational programs that meet the continuously changing needs of employers in the region. Central Iowa institutions must quickly establish programs to keep up with the ever-increasing pace of technological changes.

Those programs must be continually updated to provide employees with innovative and leading-edge educational opportunities. As a result, Central Iowa will maximize the productivity of its workforce.

To promote the success of the region, Central Iowa should:

  • Establish a regional education and technology transfer organization.
  • Seek funding for such an organization from state and local governments.
  • Challenge the regional organization to (1) identify the needs of employers, (2) develop accessible, online delivery systems, and (3) coordinate technology transfer to the private sector and other institutions in Central Iowa.

Success will be determined by Central Iowa’s ability to once again lead an educational revolution by developing and delivering accessible continuing education courses and to efficiently transfer technology to businesses and institutions in the region in “real time.” >