Gubernatorial staff members gathered in Des Moines this week seeking best practices from across the U.S. to build good jobs in their own states, during the National Governors Association’s third Good Jobs for All Americans workshop in the Renaissance Savery Hotel. 

The two-day workshop was led by Govs. Kim Reynolds, Larry Hogan of Maryland and Steve Bullock of Montana. By next summer, the NGA hopes to give U.S. governors a complete package of the findings of four final workshops with staff members. 

“It’s something that all 50 governors are really dealing with and concerned about,” Hogan said. “Even though there’s only three governors here today, there’s a lot of great governor staff that are focused on these issues from all across the country. … We’re the laboratories of democracy, and all the good ideas are coming out of the states.” 

STEM education opportunities and the development of rural economies received special highlights over the event. In his introductory comments Monday, Hogan pointed to a high school career pathway program developed by IBM that his administration has enacted statewide. 

Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) enables high school students to earn a two-year degree as they complete their high school education, while making them eligible to take paid summer internships with Maryland businesses and connect them with mentors in the field. 

At home, Hogan proposed expanding P-TECH from eight high schools in Baltimore to statewide in 2019, including committing $300,000 of the fiscal year 2020 budget to fund planning grants for additional schools. 

“It’s going in some of our toughest neighborhoods. We started in Baltimore city and now we’re expanding across the state,” Hogan said. “They’re learning STEM, and they are first in line for jobs when they graduate, and I can tell you it’s been transformational.” 

Today, Gov. Kim Reynolds introduced Linc Kroeger, vanguard of Future Ready Iowa at Pillar Technology. Kroeger oversees Pillar’s Rural Forge initiative, which offers both a rural office location in Jefferson for Pillar Technology employees and other remote tech workers and hosts continued education opportunities for Iowans seeking a career in computer science. 

Kroeger wants to see 27 of those rural Forge locations across Iowa, he told NGA attendees. 

“I’m meeting with CEOs now — their employees could work [in Jefferson]. The idea is maybe they have a 20- to 30-person office in these different rural communities we go to,” Kroeger said. 

During the panel, Reynolds reiterated her call to the Iowa Legislature to include $20 million in the state budget for broadband infrastructure. 

“What that will allow us to do is leverage $120 million in private investment, and it also allows us to layer the federal funding that’s available through the USDA. If we are able to get an infrastructure bill passed through Congress … to the president, that will be another opportunity to draw down some additional funds,” Reynolds said. 

Bullock, who launched the Good Jobs for All Americans initiative as the chairman of NGA, said states need to be flexible when considering education opportunities in growing fields. 

“We are seeing … different ways to think about education, and STEM education isn’t necessarily about a master’s degree in IT,” Bullock said.