WATERLOO — Waterloo Community Schools was one of three $1 million competitive grant winners announced Monday through the state’s Career Academy Incentive Fund.
The grants from the Iowa Department of Education are intended to prepare more high school students for success in college, post-secondary training and the workforce.
Eastern Iowa and Indian Hills community colleges were also awarded grants to increase access to career academy programs in high-demand fields through new and expanded regional centers.
Students benefit from industry partnerships, earn high school and college credit, and gain technical and traditional academic skills offered through career and technical education programs. According to a news release from the state, the incentive fund aligns with the Future Ready Iowa goal of 70% of the workforce having education or training beyond high school by 2025. This is the second round of awards.
Gov. Kim Reynolds commended the grant winners.
“Expanding career academies develops our workforce talent pipeline and prepares high school students for high-skill, in-demand careers right here in Iowa,” she said in the news release. “It’s about our students being able to find something they’re passionate about while also earning valuable industry experience and college credit.”
Waterloo’s funds will be used to expand its career center, which serves seven surrounding school districts and three nonpublic schools. At facilities benefiting from all three grants, students will have access to career and technical education programs in high-demand fields, including health care, advanced manufacturing, welding, engineering technology and agricultural sciences.
Ann Lebo, Iowa Department of Education director, in the press release called the grants “a great step toward ensuring all students have the opportunities career academies offer.” She added, “Through these partnerships, students often earn industry credentials and certificates that they can take directly into the workforce and be highly marketable, or have a solid foundation to succeed in further post-secondary education.”
The fund was established by a 2019 law that extends a 1% sales tax for school infrastructure through January 2051. At least $1 million will be awarded annually in grants to support career academy partnerships. More information is available on the Iowa Department of Education’s website educateiowa.gov by searching Career Academy Incentive Fund.