Two of the world’s top technology companies, Corteva Agriscience and Accenture, last week made a strong investment in the economic future of rural Iowa.
At an event in the historic Greene County courthouse in Jefferson, the two companies joined with local community colleges, non-profits and school officials to launch a pilot program designed to build the skills of students and educators in cutting edge software development technology skills.
Starting this fall, Corteva will fund 25 scholarships for tuition, books and fees — each worth $7,500 — for students to enter the Des Moines Area Community College’s (DMACC) Computer Languages program. The scholarship will be targeted to students in 39 communities within 30 miles of Jefferson.
Upon completing their studies, select graduates will participate in a four-month commercial software development training program at a new office Accenture, a leading business consulting company, is opening later this year in Jefferson.
The pilot program, according to speakers at the announcement, will help show young Iowans, especially those interested in science and technology, that high-tech training and jobs are available in rural Iowa. It will also help create a pipeline of skilled technology workers for companies in Iowa and other Midwestern states, they said.
Focus on rural skills
The Corteva scholarships, as well as Accenture’s plan to open a facility in Jefferson, are showing the potential to create a workforce development training program focused on computer technology in a rural community, said community leader Chris Deal, who was instrumental in bringing the Accenture project to his hometown of 4,300.
“Why can’t Jefferson and Greene County become the hub of rural tech transformation,” he said. “We have the talent and, on top of that, we have the agricultural work ethic that is built into our DNA.”
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said the investment by Corteva and Accenture will help keep talented workers in the state. “This is about building an Iowa that exceeds the expectations of our young people,” she said. “This is really a game changer for students living in our small towns.”
For Corteva, which recently became an independent company after being spun out of DowDuPont, the scholarship program will help it find highly-trained technology workers for its research and development efforts, said Jim Alcombright, who leads the company’s information technology and digital platforms.
“We’re looking forward to teaming with Accenture and expect the students who participate in the company’s technology training program to one day contribute new, valuable digital tools that better the agriculture industry,” he said.
The pilot program was initiated by Pillar Technology, which was acquired by Accenture last year. Ohio-based Pillar is launching its location in downtown Jefferson, called the Forge, to bring high-tech and high-paying tech jobs to rural Iowa.
Jefferson, along with the Greene County Community School District, is also participating by launching a new career academy to provide high school students skills to help feed the need for technology workers.
Rob Denson, DMACC president, said the community college will provide information about the Corteva scholarships at high schools in the target area. Interested students can also find out more at www.dmacc.edu/foundation/Pages/ruralforge.aspx.