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3 Unique Ways Iowa Companies Are Tackling Talent Attraction

October 7, 2022

Iowa’s rapid post-pandemic economic recovery, new investments in quality childcare, infrastructure and overall quality of life make the state a leading competitor for top talent. However, the so-called Great Resignation has made it tough for businesses across the country to retain employees. To address this challenge, companies operating in Iowa are working to become savvier with their attraction and retention strategies. David Ottavianelli, workforce and community development director for John Deere, explained how the company is looking to expand the career pipeline.

1. Early Outreach


Establishing relationships with students is a primary goal for John Deere. In order to showcase opportunities with the company, John Deere hosts career fairs, job shadowing and factory tours. Talking to students early in their educational journey is key to helping them envision a rewarding career for themselves.

Through successful partnerships, John Deere has been able to gain statewide support for these outreach programs. “We started working with the Iowa Department of Education, and the Governor’s Office to work through this career and academic planning process,” Ottavianelli said. The company also formed partnerships on a local level, working with high schools, community colleges, local chambers and businesses to sponsor events where John Deere could spread the word about career opportunities.

Ottavianelli expressed the importance of letting young students consider all options after graduating high school. The company interacts with as many students as they can, giving welding demonstrations to second graders and sponsoring events at juvenile detention centers to make sure that young people are aware of the potential careers at John Deere.

2. Registered Apprenticeship Programs for High School Students

For students who are interested in going straight to work, John Deere created a Registered Apprenticeship Program. Working with the Department of Labor and the Governor’s Office, John Deere created a curriculum for high school students who graduate with the certification to begin doing meaningful work right away. Since the start of their program in 2019, it has grown in number of students and programs offered. “We feel that we can gain about 100 students per year coming into these systems, which will set up a sustainable pipeline and talent pool, which could be attractive to bring more business into the area,” Ottavianelli said.

High school students who participate in apprenticeship programs get an early start on career readiness. During their junior year, students begin taking apprentice training courses at school. That summer, they begin initial employment and training at a John Deere facility. During their senior year, they spend a half day at school and a half day working. By the time they graduate high school, they’re ready to begin a full-time position. Besides their high school diploma, students graduate with several other achievements, including their welding certificate, apprentice certificate, associate degree credits and more.

Ottavianelli feels that the program will continue growing steadily, and they’ve already seen huge success. “As we give these students opportunities to go into great paying careers right away, and to become contributing members of society, it has a positive impact on many different elements of the community,” he said.

3. Focus on Veterans

John Deere makes relocation easy for service members. The company has operations in Davenport, which is part of Scott County, a Home Base Iowa community. Home Base Iowa connects Iowa businesses with qualified veterans and their spouses looking for career opportunities, and service members who move to a Home Base Iowa county could be eligible for more than $8,000 in relocation incentives.As a Home Base Iowa partner, John Deere helps their veteran employees receive these benefits.

The company is also pursuing the talents that veterans have. Through a partnership with the Department of Defense’s SkillBridge Program, John Deere’s created their military hiring program to offer retiring service members an opportunity to start a new career. During the last six months of a veteran’s service to the military, they can work with John Deere to learn the industry and ease their transition back to civilian life.

Ottavianelli describes the program as a win-win-win situation because it helps the service members, the company and the local communities. As a former service member, Ottavianelli provides great perspective on why this program works so well. “What we do in our factories and all the things [veterans] have done in the past makes it a great place for them to take all the skills they’ve learned and continue to grow,” he said. Since the program started in August of 2020, 126 active-duty service members have participated, bringing in new individuals and families who may not have previously considered Iowa as place to settle.

“It’s an incredibly fulfilling program to have in place, and we’re seeing great candidates come out of this,” Ottavianelli said.

To view the full webinar, register here.