OTTUMWA — Seeing a vibrant economy here is going to take a team; and while that team may or may not contain certain members, it must have the community’s high school.
That was the message from Tom Rubel at Monday's meeting of the Ottumwa school board. Rubel is the executive dean of the Indian Hills Regional Economic Advancement program. His department is tasked with getting people together to help in creating a strong southeast Iowa economy. He was not giving the board members all new information, but he was bringing it all together; to do that right, it's going to take cooperation between stakeholders like public schools, four-year colleges, community colleges, specialty schools and businesses.
To begin, he explained, “In order to have a stable economy, you need to have a workforce.”
It’s not the only thing you need to have, he acknowledged, but it is a portion of the formula that it’d be dangerous to forget.
“We need to have economic development, and you can’t talk about economic development without small business. Or without big business,” Rubel acknowledged. “But they need a [skilled] workforce.”
That includes expanding a business, bringing in new business or even staying in business.
“You need a workforce, and for that, we need to talk about education.”
The conversation adults should be having with young people is, Rubel believes, is “what do you want to do with your life? And where do you go to get the training to do that?”
With the right questions, we get them into a technical program, or a four-year college, or a job-training program.
Rubel’s fellow IHCC representative, Karen Swanson, said that’s how students get into the right career path for them, and one that will have jobs available. It’s too easy to get into debt, she said, as a student who winds up without a job that will help pay back their college debt.