The state officials met with Caterpillar facility leaders to focus on the need for skilled labor.
With the goal of understanding the needs of local businesses, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad and Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds (pictured) toured the Caterpillar Work Tools facility in Elkader, Iowa, on Thursday, April 25. Guiding them on the tour were Bob Hunter, North America Operations manager for Global Work Tools & Services, and Facility Manager Roy Hatfield.
Employees at the facility manufacture excavator buckets, wheel loader buckets and blades for various Cat® machines. The 45-minute tour gave Gov. Branstad and Lt. Gov. Reynolds the opportunity to see these people and their products up-close.
"We enjoyed our visit to Caterpillar, and it was great to tour such an important Iowa facility," said Gov. Branstad. "We value the work Caterpillar is doing in Iowa and are proud to be home to such a storied company."
"It was an honor to host Gov. Branstad and Lt. Gov. Reynolds at our factory," said Bob Hunter. "It's always great for Caterpillar when we get the opportunity to showcase our products and the hard work of our employees with our elected leaders. The governor and lieutenant governor wanted to know more about our growth in Elkader during the last few years, our products, our customers, our involvement in the community and actions we believe the state of Iowa could take to help improve the business environment."
One area of concern they discussed, in which the state is already working with businesses and schools, is addressing the shortage of skilled personnel (welders, machinists, etc.). This shortage was made evident when the facility doubled its employee population from 40 to 80 last year.
"We had to screen approximately 300 applicants in order to hire those 40 people," said Gail Lindley, the facility's HR manager. "Iowa does have a number of state-funded training programs, which have helped fund some of our welding training classes, but we're still challenged to find the qualified people we need. However, there are some long-term efforts underway to help address the problem. For example, school districts are joining together to fund industrial technology classes for middle and high school students, and Caterpillar is one of many businesses involved in career fairs at local schools where they educate children about careers in many different fields. Most of these partnerships have formed during the last two to four years."
"Our work continues on closing the skills gap that exists in Iowa," said Gov. Branstad. "Our Workforce Development office is working with the Skilled Iowa program to ensure workers in search of a job have the skills they need in order to fill the needed positions all across the state, including Elkader."