Mobile unit will be used after major layoffs, natural disasters or for training in rural areas.
This drawing shows the 32-foot bus Iowa Workforce Development is buying to provide workforce assistance throughout the state. The mobile unit will be able to respond quickly to natural disasters and major layoffs, providing assistance with jobless claims, training and education. (Iowa Workforce Development)
When major layoffs happen, a large number of Iowans from one city may need help filing for unemployment benefits or updating resumes to find new jobs.
When a natural disaster strikes and the internet is down, unemployed workers may need a place to file weekly claims.
When you live hours from a major metro area, getting one-on-one employment counseling or training isn’t always possible.
The 32-foot-long, custom-built bus is meant to help.
Iowa Workforce Development recently announced plans to buy the bus and use it as a mobile unit for delivering workforce assistance to all corners of the state. Agency officials answered The Gazette’s questions about the bus and how it will be used.
Q: What is the source of funding for the unit?
A: The state will pay for the $470,000 mobile unit with federal money allocated for Iowa through the American Rescue Plan Act and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.
Q: What will the mobile unit include?
A: The bus will include 10 computer work stations and two 40-inch monitors, including one mounted outside the vehicle that can be used for larger presentations.
Q: How will Iowa Workforce Development staff use the bus?
A: IowaWORKS staff will be able to provide one-on-one job counseling, help Iowans file unemployment claims, or (depending on the weather) host workshops under an outdoor awning to help with resumes and job interviews.
Q: Will this unit be out in force throughout the year or just when there are major layoffs?
A: We’re bringing on the mobile unit as a tool that will serve multiple uses.
Rapid response, such as responding to layoffs and natural disasters, will be an important component that allows us to dispatch services and have a presence in an area very quickly.
The mobile unit will also have regular use throughout the year to bring flexibility and IowaWORKS services to more Iowans, including (to people who) may live further or have a longer driving distance from a dedicated IowaWORKS office. In short, the schedule will evolve, but we intend to keep it in use.
The state also is exploring ideas to let different agencies request a visit from the unit.
Q: Will the mobile unit have dedicated staff or will Iowa Workforce Development staff rotate through?
A: Plans are still being finalized for next year. Iowa Workforce Development does intend to utilize workforce staff from different areas of the state as the mobile unit travels.
Typically, the workforce staff in a particular area has close knowledge of employers and opportunities that are actively available, so this vehicle makes it that much easier to bring services directly to Iowans.
Q: Do other states have similar mobile units?
A: Yes, some states have added this feature. While we don’t have a full list, a good example is Kansas.
Q: When can Iowans expect to see the bus out in the state?
A: The mobile unit is being built by Wisconsin-based LDV Inc., a manufacturer selected through competitive bidding this past spring. The bus is expected to be delivered to Iowa next summer.
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