United Way of Central Iowa has been awarded nearly $1.8 million as one of 32 Good Jobs Challenge grantees, part of a $500 million investment nationwide.

The winning projects were selected from a competitive pool of 509 applicants. The grant, awarded by the U.S. Economic Development Administration, Department of Commerce, is funded as part of the American Rescue Plan and will help fund the Central Iowa HealthWorks program, a collaborative effort to train and support central Iowans seeking careers in healthcare.

“We are honored to be awarded this highly-competitive Federal grant and continue the amazing work of Central Iowa HealthWorks and its partners,” said Mary Sellers, President of United Way of Central Iowa. “There is a significant need for healthcare workers in our community, and this program will provide a powerful pipeline of diverse talent, while also helping central Iowans get the training and experience they need to launch a career in the industry.”

United Way’s Central Iowa HealthWorks program launched in 2017 and has assisted 648 central Iowans earn 786 credentials in nursing and other healthcare disciplines. With only 4.3% of nurses who are people of color, Iowa’s healthcare workforce is lacking in diversity. Central Iowa HealthWorks focuses on equity by supporting diverse candidates with free tuition, testing, books, supplies, and access to a case manager to help with other potential challenges like childcare, transportation, and more. To date more than 74% of the program’s participants have been individuals of color, and 100% have faced significant barriers like poverty, unemployment, refugee or immigrant status, disability, and more.

“This is a big win for our community and state, and we appreciate the organizations who partnered with United Way on this successful grant application,” said Renée Miller, Chief Community Impact Officer of United Way of Central Iowa. “Iowa Workforce Development, Iowa Economic Development Authority, Mid-Iowa Planning Alliance, and many others played a key role in helping make this happen.”

According to the U.S. Economic Development Administration, by partnering with labor unions, community colleges, industry, and other stakeholders, the Good Job Challenge projects will solve for local talent needs, increase the supply of trained workers, and help workers secure jobs in 15 key industries that are essential to U.S. supply chains, global competitiveness, and regional development. In addition to healthcare, this funding will advance a broad range of sectors – including agriculture and food production, energy and resilience, manufacturing, and information technology – jumpstarting the design, development, implementation, and expansion of training programs tailored specifically to each community.

“A trained workforce is essential to ensuring that the United States can compete and succeed in the 21st century,” said Gina Raimondo, Secretary of Commerce. “Thanks to funding from the American Rescue Plan, the Commerce Department is able to make once-in-a-generation investments in industry-driven, and locally-led workforce systems that will create high-quality jobs and accelerate regional economic growth, especially for underserved communities.”


Mary Sellers

About The Author: Mary Sellers

Mary Sellers is the President of United Way of Central Iowa.