Iowa's "Hot" Jobs

Jul 20, 2015

Iowa's unemployment rate of 3.8% reflects nearly full employment across the state. But there are many industries that need workers, and that demand is reflected in the Iowa Hot Jobs report. Deputy Director of Iowa Workforce Development and the State Labor Market Information Administrator, Ed Wallace says jobs in the biosciences, health care, education, and agriculture continue to grow. The challenge lies in making sure those looking for work know which jobs are in most demand.

In this edition of Talk of Iowa we continue our series, Iowa at Work. Host Charity Nebbe talks with people who work in some of Iowa's "hot" jobs about what they do and how they decided on their careers.

Michael Scholton has one of Iowa's "hot" jobs. He's an Actuary and CFO of Principal Management Corporation, a division of The Principal Financial Group. He describes his work as "putting business in one hand, math in another, and smashing them together." Actuaries assess and project risk for businesses, setting insurance premiums for example. Scholton says he was always good at math, but didn't want to be a teacher or an engineer. It was his mother's boss who steered him towards actuarial science. As he was about to graduate from the University of Iowa, he says employers came looking for him and his classmates.

David Asprey is a Physician Assistant and Chair of the Department of Physician Assistant Studies & Services in the Carver College of Medicine at the University of Iowa. He explains that a Physician Assistant sees patients, makes diagnoses and prescribes treatment. But Physician Assistants graduate with a M.A. degree instead of an M.D. That makes it a health profession that doesn't come with the high level of student debt that medical school carries, and because there is less specialization, they work in the areas of health care with the highest demand. Asprey says about 70% of incoming PA students are women who often say they're looking for a health profession with a better work-life balance.

Jeff Mitchell is Dean of Industrial Technology at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids and has been a welder since he was 17. Mitchell says welding has become more scientific as technology and materials have changed and improved. For example, much of today’s welding equipment contains microprocessors allowing for more precise control. The movement has been to lighter materials which are much stronger than typical steel and much more difficult to work with. To understand and operate this equipment, students need to have high reading and math skills, something most people don't expect from jobs in the trades. But the payoff is a 90% job placement rate for industrial technology graduates.

The challenge is spreading the word about these careers, as well as teaching and developing the skills needed to pursue them. That's where "The Real World Externship Program" comes in. The effort matches K-12 classroom teachers with summer jobs in Iowa industries that connect to their subject area. Kayla Brauer has been working with Kemin Industries in Des Moines for the past several weeks. She will take what she learns back to her 8th grade science classroom in Johnston this fall. Brauer says she's not only learning a lot about chemistry, but also the so-called soft skills her students will need in the future workplace. She plans to have her students work more collaboratively this fall.