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Reynolds talks prison reform, celebrates apprenticeships during visit to Van Wall

Ames Tribune - 11/6/2019

Gov. Kim Reynolds' office is looking into Oklahoma's inmate release to learn more about the process, the governor said during a stop Tuesday at Van Wall Equipment, a farm implement dealer in Nevada.

Her comments followed a press conference where Reynolds celebrated apprenticeships in Iowa. She said a state task force is working on criminal justice reform in Iowa.

"There are a lot of states that are working on criminal justice reform, so let's see what they're doing, let's see what makes sense for Iowa and take what they've done and adapt it to what we're trying to do here in the state of Iowa," Reynolds said.

The task force is working on a two-part phase with a tight time-line, Reynolds said.

"I've asked for them to bring recommendations to me in December, so that's a lot about recidivism and re-entry and making sure we're setting them up to be successful," Reynolds said. "The larger, or the second phase, will be a little bit more complex as we deal with just some of the biased in the system and how we can move forward through that."

Victims will remain a focal point during the process, Reynolds said.

"We just need to make sure that its balanced and we never lose sight of the victims," Reynolds said.

During her visit to central Iowa Tuesday, Reynolds celebrated apprenticeship opportunities in Iowa, signing proclamation to declare the week of Nov. 11-17 as registered 'Apprenticeship Week.'

As of Oct. 30, according to Reynolds, Iowa has nearly 750 active and registered apprenticeship programs and more than 7,600 apprentices. Additionally, Iowa has a total of 14 registered apprenticeship programs, 'with more in the que,' Reynolds said.

"We are outpacing states like Georgia and Arizona who have three times the population of Iowa," Reynolds said. "It makes sense that registered apprenticeships have been so successful here because they are the quintessential win-win, and as Iowans, we always recognize a good deal."

According to Reynolds, 91 percent of those who complete an apprenticeship are still employed nine months later, she said.

The average starting salary for registered apprentices in Iowa is about $60,000 a year, Reynolds said, and over the span of their career, Reynolds said apprentices earn $300,00 more than a peer who has not received registered apprenticeship training.

"In true Iowa fashion, we are not satisfied to rest on our success; instead, we're supporting the development of new programs in fields like IT, finance, and healthcare."

Apprenticeship programs across Iowa have been supported through the registered apprenticeship development fund, which was unanimously approved as part of Future Ready Iowa legislation early this year, Reynolds said.

The program provides finances through grants to help small and medium-sized businesses start apprenticeship programs, according to Reynolds.

Van Wall Equipment was a recipient of apprenticeship funding through the registered program. As business has grown over the years, the need to add skilled technicians continues to rise for Van Wall Equipment, CEO Don Van Houweling said.

"In fact, today, if we could add 40 to 50 technicians, we would do it in a heartbeat," Van Houweling said. "You can see why the registered apprenticeship program is so important to our business; the funding that's available through the registered apprenticeship program together with the degree program that exists at Northeast Iowa Community College at Calmar is the combination that we've spent energy focused on to develop technicians for the future."

Gilbert High School graduate Kenyon O'Brien is a first-year apprentice at Van Wall Equipment'sStory City location, who was unsure of his next steps following high school. Although his agriculture teacher told him about the apprenticeship program, O'Brien tried out a four-year university, he said, as he thought it was what he wanted to do.

After looking at the student bill, O'Brien changed his mind and contacted the company to look into a job shadow. It was the right fit for O'Brien.

"I don't have to worry about paying for school anymore or worrying about a job, that was all taken care of (through the) Van Wall apprenticeship program," O'Brien said. "Now I just focus on school and getting through it."

"I'm really looking forward to the on-the-job training experience (by) taking what I learned in school now and applying it to the machinery I'm working on, and now I'm going to be graduating with very minimal debt and graduating from a job I can grow in."

The apprenticeship programs provide opportunities for students to grow and stay in the state of Iowa.

"We talk about opportunities to keep our young people in the state of Iowa and this is how we do it," Reynolds said. "It can be applied to any industry, whether it's IT, computer-science, whatever those high-demand fields are."

"The opportunities create no-debt and just really to give them an opportunity to (connect) our young people where their passion is at makes a big difference."

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