- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 27, 2014

ALTOONA, Iowa (AP) - An apprenticeship program designed to teach workers required skills for high-demand jobs including those in building, construction, and information technology received a boost Tuesday when Gov. Terry Branstad signed into law the Iowa Apprenticeship and Job Training Act.

Standing Tuesday in front of the giant new data center under construction in Altoona, in which Facebook is investing nearly $1 billion, Branstad said a skilled workforce is extremely important and in high demand in Iowa.

The governor cited more than $8.8 billion in new capital investments and said demand is rapidly rising.

“These are good-paying jobs and great careers,” Branstad said. “Apprenticeships allow us to quickly and effectively train workers to meet that demand.”

Inside the Facebook building, apprentices were working to prepare the facility for operation soon, Branstad said.

Microsoft has invested about $2 billion in Iowa and Google more than $1 billion in massive data storage centers.

Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds said Iowa had 662 registered apprenticeship programs last year and more than 8,100 registered apprentices.

“By tripling the funding for apprenticeships we can quickly train more workers for the precise skills that they need in a variety of occupations,” she said.

The bill provides over $3 million for the program, which will be administered by the Iowa Economic Development Authority. A previous state apprenticeship program received about $1 million in funding. The bill also provides about $3 million for other job training programs that will continue to be run through community colleges.

IEDA Director Debi Durham said aggressive economic development recruiting demands the ability to show prospective companies Iowa has trained workers to meet their needs.

“Apprenticeships allow us to address the skilled worker gap to ensure that Iowa can continue to be the choice for these jobs-creation projects,” she said.

Apprenticeships also are used in training plumbers and pipefitters where welding work done in high-pressure applications must be certified. Examples including ethanol and biodiesel refineries and breweries. The technology in electricity distribution is changing rapidly and apprenticeships are used to keep workers trained, said Sen. Bill Dotzler, D-Waterloo, who managed the bill through the Senate.

“Workers in the building trades arena have to keep up and continually be educated on new systems and those are highly skilled jobs,” he said.

Branstad vetoed portions of the bill that would have created an apprenticeship advisory board, which he said in unnecessary. He also vetoed sections of the bill that would have transferred responsibility for some job training to the Department of Education. Branstad said keeping the program under IEDA is the most efficient use of money and a more consistent way to manage it.

Iowa’s governor has line item veto power on spending measures.