Northeast Iowa’s Success = Education + Economy. The notion of an educonomy, a term that gained steam in educational policy circles in 2014, signals a new vision for Iowa’s – and the nation’s – future economic health and job creation.
As the State of Iowa continues to post unemployment rates far below the national average, and with job openings nationwide reaching a 15-year high in 2014, experts believe that matching the skilled needs employers have is the solution to a sustained, robust economic recovery. This solution is achieved through dialogue and the successful collaboration of educational institutions, students, educators and employers on the lookout for skilled talent.
Brandon Busteed, executive director of Gallup Education, makes this case in his 2014 essay, “The Education Economy: America’s Next Big Thing.”
“Though the economy and education have long been topics of top concern, we haven’t worked to create strong linkages between the two. They are more like two castles with a large moat between them,” the writer observed.
In an educonomy, America’s educational system – including K-12 districts, two-year and four-year colleges and universities – would work collaboratively at every opportunity with employers and job creators to match the skills our workforce requires. This approach aligns students’ skills and interests with the career paths that lead to fulfilling careers, supplies companies with the workforce they need to grow and, ultimately, drives the economy.
“Education transforms lives: we lift one individual at a time, one family and one community at a time.”
– Liang Chee Wee, Ph.D.
Northeast Iowa Community College President
Northeast Iowa Community College (NICC) is in a unique position to bridge this gap through its facilitation of conversations and successful history of partnerships with business and industry; these efforts improve the career readiness of students who enroll with the College or continue their education in four-year degree programs.
In fact, many new NICC initiatives and innovations are already driving an educonomy mindset, including:
- Creating new and enhancing existing programs with the input of business and industry leaders who serve on program advisory committees, industry sector boards, or the College’s Manufacturing Alliance, Human Resources Alliance and CEO Executive Exchange.
- Starting a Metal Working Apprenticeship Program at the Peosta campus (see story on pg. 8) that is competency based, customized for students’ computer numerical control (CNC) machinist skills and designed to match the competencies employer sponsors need for their own workforce.
- Launching career pathway certificate programs since 2013 that address middle-skill shortages in advanced manufacturing, healthcare and transportation. The programs lead to entry-level employment and offer opportunities for graduates to transfer their credits to an NICC diploma or degree program.
- Hosting Northeast Iowa Business and Educator Summit events that engage entrepreneurs, employers and educators in dialogue to bridge the skills gap in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.
- Beginning the Northeast Iowa Career Learning Link program to build knowledge of career opportunities for area high school students. Through the program, businesses are invited to sponsor tours, serve as classroom speakers, offer job shadows and internships, and participate in regional job fairs. Educators may take advantage of externship opportunities to bring business and industry experiences back to their classrooms.
A unified effort to bring together educators, businesses and students – our future workforce – will make a powerful impact on both the regional and state economy.
This is the educonomy model in action! To learn more about ways you can get involved, visit
Are you ready to return to college and train for a high-demand, high-wage career? Explore more than 90 NICC programs at www.nicc.edu/collegeprograms!