Skip to main content

IWF Launches ASPIRE Workforce Program with Pottawattamie County School Districts, Education Partners

September 7, 2023

$1.1 million to fund job training opportunities and support for high school students

(COUNCIL BLUFFS, IA) – Headlines across the country warn of a workforce pipeline problem in healthcare, childcare, and construction trades among other fields, but that is not the story in Pottawattamie County, where the Iowa West Foundation today launched ASPIRE. The new initiative provides a total of $1.1 million to six school districts, Avenue Scholars of Southwest Iowa, and Iowa Western Community College to support and prepare the next generation of workers for in-demand careers. 

“We wanted a program that gives all students access to an education that supports a strong start after graduation,” said Brenda Mainwaring, President and CEO of the Iowa West Foundation. “We wanted local businesses to grow and thrive by having access to a ready workforce. And we wanted our kids to imagine a successful future for themselves, right here in Pottawattamie County.”

ASPIRE was created in partnership with local school districts to serve the unique needs of both urban and rural students. It allows superintendents to use flexible funding to grow existing workforce training programs or launch new ones. Each program ensures students receive support in their career exploration and assistance in transitioning to additional training. This can include apprenticeships, internships, two-year colleges, four-year colleges, or the workforce.

“We are proud to partner with Iowa West Foundation and local employers as we continue to expand ways to connect CB Schools’ students with career opportunities,” said Dr. Vickie Murillo, Superintendent of Council Bluffs Community Schools. “This partnership is an innovative way to address local workforce needs.”

ASPIRE will provide increased access to Iowa Western’s College and Career Transition Counselors, Avenue Scholars of Southwest Iowa’s support systems, and Iowa Jobs for America’s Graduates (IJAG). These investments will also make additional staff and certifications for existing staff possible to expand work-based learning opportunities. Additionally, ASPIRE supports new curriculum and more slots to help more students earn a diploma plus credit or credentials.

“Thanks to the support of ASPIRE resources, our organization is poised to empower more students in our region to discover their career paths and blaze their own trails, said Dr. Cara Cool Trede, Executive Director of Avenue Scholars of Southwest Iowa. “Simultaneously, we are strengthening the talent pipeline to meet the evolving needs of the regional workforce.” 

Partners created ASPIRE with business owners in mind. Mainwaring credits Iowa Western as the connection between schools and employers, noting that Iowa Western offers programs that students want and that employers need, thereby bridging the gap between education and employment.

“ASPIRE is yet another example of Iowa West Foundation’s commitment to academic excellence as well as their vision to create a community where businesses thrive,” said Iowa Western President Dr. Dan Kinney. “Iowa Western is excited to be a partner on this ground-breaking effort.”

Recognizing the evolving educational landscape, the initiative aims to grow the amount of diverse and tailored work-based learning experiences over time. By providing students with access to potential careers and hands-on learning, ASPIRE aims to create unique opportunities for both Pottawattamie County students and employers.

Nicole Lindquist

Written by Nicole Lindquist, Director of Communications

Media Inquiries:

Nicole Lindquist
Director of Communications
w: 712-309-3004
c: 402-981-2289

OUR VISION is a community where families choose to live, and businesses choose to locate, because of its quality of life and standard of living.


Enter your email address to receive updates from the Iowa West Foundation directly in your inbox.