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New Opportunity Dubuque training programs developed to counter challenges of high unemployment in area

Friday, November 20, 2020

Students who enroll in the programs receive individualized advising, coaching and assistance with job placement.

DUBUQUE, Iowa—A new Greater Dubuque Development Corporation and Northeast Iowa Community College (NICC) initiative will provide solutions to high unemployment in the Dubuque region resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The initiative builds upon the successes created through the Opportunity Dubuque partnership by focusing on essential employment skills training for individuals. The two organizations, with the support of the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque, Dubuque Works, the City of Dubuque and the Dubuque County Board of Supervisors, developed Opportunity Dubuque in 2012. To date, the effort has trained nearly 700 people in advanced manufacturing, health care, transportation, construction and other careers, with an employment rate of 95 percent.

“As our economy weathers the employment impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Opportunity Dubuque training is a lifeline for individuals seeking new employment or a career change. Tuition assistance, childcare assistance and individualized coaching means there is a fit for everyone wanting to train for a new career. We are pleased to partner on this initiative,” expressed Kristin Dietzel, Greater Dubuque Development Corporation vice president of workforce solutions.

According to Dietzel, there are currently 1,760 job openings from 682 unique job posts on and filling these jobs will be key to getting the local economy back on track as the area recovers from steep unemployment.

Two new essential skills training programs at Northeast Iowa Community College, Advanced Manufacturing Assembly Operator Training and Warehouse Technician, will train prospective hires in these industries to meet acute workforce needs.

The Assembly certificate involves a hands-on lab that applies personal and team based skill-sets and production concepts in lean manufacturing, safety, continuous improvement, process compliance and quality. Students will learn and demonstrate proper use of basic blueprints, tools, measuring tools, common fasteners, bearings and lifting equipment. Students will also be introduced to basic electrical and hydraulic assembly. The Warehouse program provides instruction in OSHA safety, forklift operator, basic computer training and soft skills.

“Greater Dubuque Development Corporation, NICC and workforce development agencies have analyzed where our communities and employers have high-demand skilled needs with many job openings to fill. This is a collaborative solution that will address our unemployment levels by training individuals in these essential careers,” said Wendy Mihm-Herold, Ph.D., NICC vice president of business and community solutions.

The two new Opportunity Dubuque programs join a current group of 20 certificate programs available through NICC including Computer Numerical Control, Industrial Maintenance, AutoCAD, Commercial Driver License and Welding. Students who enroll in the programs receive individualized advising, coaching and assistance with job placement. The College ensures that barriers to training for students, such as child care availability, are mitigated and they complete the training certification successfully. Many students may qualify for the training at no cost.

One graduate of the Welding short-term certificate training program, Sonny Thornton, believes that completing certifications is an employer expectation for prospective hires.

“To get a good job anywhere takes certification and a lot of people can’t afford the time or cost of schooling. The big question I had when I enrolled at NICC was, ‘How am I going to afford this?’ The College directed me to the Opportunity Dubuque funding program and that took care of all of it! It was a giant weight off my shoulders and I am grateful,” Thornton said.

Opportunity Dubuque is a nationally recognized, collaborative job training effort developed in response to local employers’ needs for a skilled workforce. Through this initiative, individuals complete industry-driven certifications to upgrade their skills or launch their careers. For more information visit or contact NICC at (833) 642-2338.