Photo of robotic welder.

Northeast Iowa Community College joins manufacturing consortium

Thursday, May 20, 2021

This partnership will respond to workforce, training/education and integration needs to help manufacturers strategically address technology investments, workforce pipeline and workforce talent challenges.

NORTHEAST IOWA—As business and industry evolve at an ever-increasing pace, the next wave of change in the form of digitalization and automation, known as “Industry 4.0,” will require new processes for businesses and new skills for employees.

Today, Northeast Iowa Community College (NICC) has joined with Iowa’s community colleges and the Iowa State University’s Center for Industrial Research and Service (CIRAS) to announce a new consortium to support the manufacturing sector in adapting to these changes. The training and awareness initiative includes partners from across the state.

“Iowa has the right mix of relationships and resources to help our manufacturers remain competitive through a global technology revolution that is transforming factory floors and jobs,” said Gov. Reynolds. “This important partnership addresses a critical need identified in the state’s Manufacturing 4.0 strategic plan by uniting key education and industry stakeholders in a comprehensive effort to prepare workers with the skills they need in an increasingly digital economy." 

A January report from the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) “Seizing the Manufacturing 4.0 Opportunity: A Strategic Plan for Iowa’s Manufacturing Industry” called for advancing the knowledge base, expertise and collaboration among businesses in the state. This partnership will respond to workforce, training/education and integration needs to help manufacturers strategically address technology investments, workforce pipeline and workforce talent challenges. The consortium will support Iowa manufacturers’ efforts to seize opportunities and remain competitive by providing consultation, education, implementation and access to resources.

NICC President Liang Chee Wee, Ph.D., believes that NICC is uniquely positioned to address the challenges of workforce recruitment and retention, employee training and technological advancements. NICC will serve a key role in the new consortium because of the solid partnerships the College has established with manufacturers and industry.

“Improving lives of Iowans and driving business success have always been the mission of NICC,” Dr. Wee emphasized.  “Through innovative collaborations with our industry and community partners to upskill our workforce and enhance business infrastructure, we will continue to enhance the vitality of our Northeast Iowa communities.”

Industry 4.0 is important to NICC because of the need to position Iowa manufacturers for a technology revolution and address continued growth in most business sectors in northeast Iowa. The IEDA study reported that $30.1 billion (17 percent) of Iowa’s GDP is generated by manufacturing. Up to 21 percent of jobs in northeast Iowa are tied to manufacturing, with more than 2,000 job openings in Dubuque alone. The study also reported that in Iowa nearly one quarter (23 percent) of current work hours will be automated by 2030, and every county in Iowa has between 50-61 percent of jobs with potential automation. Automation is expected to create an additional 15 million jobs.

The consortium includes key state associations and agencies who have agreed to partner for the best interest of manufacturing businesses. This unique collaboration will implement an education, awareness strategy statewide and that will lead to development of curriculum to meet training needs of all sizes of manufacturing businesses throughout Iowa. In addition to customized training for the existing workforce, the group will develop and enhance certificate, diploma, and degree programs to ensure employers have access to advanced skills training and career pathways now and in the future.

Additional consortium partners include:

  • Association of Business and Industry
  • Iowa Department of Education
  • Iowa Economic Development Authority
  • Iowa Workforce Development
  • Professional Developers of Iowa
  • Institute for Decision-Making, University of Northern Iowa

The consortium began meeting in April to set goals and timelines. Visit for updates on this ongoing initiative. 


About the Iowa Association of Community College Trustees (IACCT): IACCT is a nonprofit corporation serving Iowa’s 15 Community Colleges and their locally elected Boards by providing educational opportunities for trustees, students, presidents and staff through conferences, webinars and regional meetings; and by coordinating the Iowa Community Colleges’ One Voice advocacy program that respects the preservation of each Community College’s unique strengths, local governance, and educational programs to meet their communities and business partners’ worker training and economic development needs.

About Iowa State University CIRAS: Iowa State University’s Center for Industrial Research and Service (CIRAS) was created in 1963 to improve the quality of life in Iowa by helping businesses and their communities prosper and grow. As the Manufacturing Extension Partnership National Network representative for Iowa, CIRAS focuses on providing small- and medium-sized manufacturers with the help they need to succeed. Over the past five years, CIRAS and its partners have helped more than 4,100 businesses in every Iowa county, creating an economic impact of more than $2.8 billion. For additional information, visit