Iowa Governor Signs Seal of Biliteracy Legislation to Address Increased Demand for Bilingual Talent

Important legislation to help identify and leverage bilingual talent signed into law following demand for bilingual workers in the state nearly tripling from 2010 to 2016.

Des Moines, Iowa – Today, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signed Senate File 475 into law, which contains a Seal of Biliteracy program to recognize high school graduates with proficiency in a second language other than English. The important legislation highlights the need to leverage language skills as Iowa is faced with a growing need for bilingual talent in industries across the state.

By recognizing the value of speaking more than one language, the Seal of Biliteracy promotes language learning and delivers new economic opportunities to Iowa’s doorstep. A broad coalition of elected officials and business organizations supported the legislation, including the Greater Des Moines Partnership, the Iowa Chamber Alliance, and New American Economy (NAE). With Governor Reynold’s signature, Iowa joins 26 other states across the country that have adopted the program.

“I commend the state legislature and Governor Reynolds for working together and recognizing Iowa’s need to celebrate students achieving a high proficiency in multiple languages,” said Mary Bontrager, Executive Vice President of Talent Development at the Greater Des Moines Partnership. “This initiative serves as a critical stepping stone for our dynamic workforce, and incentivizes key qualifications our employers highly value in a 21st century economy.”

“With business demand for bilingual talent spiking, Iowa is just the latest state to recognize learning a second language is a sound investment for students to make,” said John Feinblatt, President of New American Economy. “Iowa’s seal of biliteracy will help more young job-seekers stand out and excel in the increasingly global economy.”

Iowa business leaders commended the benefits of the initiative, which creates a tangible incentive for Iowa high school students to become proficient in a second language. Several studies show that learning a second language can enhance a student’s cognitive development, equip them with greater cultural understanding, and help them develop and prepare for an increasingly globalized job market.

“The Omnibus Education bill passed in the Iowa legislature provides for a Seal of Biliteracy. Those students who are bilingual will be identified on their diploma, so employers can know that, and employ them, and have a higher quality skilled workforce readily available at the tips of their fingers as they are hiring folks,” stated Iowa Senate Education Committee Chair Amy Sinclair in her closing remarks on the Senate floor.

The legislation is supported by NAE research that highlights the growing demand from Iowa’s largest employers and industries for bilingual workers. The research analyzed online job posting data acquired by Burning Glass Technologies, which details the need to attract and promote language diversity in Iowa’s workforce among both foreign-born and U.S.-born workers.

Demand for Bilingual Workers in Iowa finds:

  • Between 2010 and 2016, online job postings in Iowa for bilingual workers grew by 198.3%, increasing from 1,658 to 4,946 job postings. Demand for candidates who speak Spanish more than doubled over the same period, increasing from 1,169 to 2,669 job postings.
  • Of the top ten Iowa employers seeking bilingual workers in 2016, seven called for bilingual candidates in more than half of their online job postings, including H&R Block (69 percent), Crossmark (86 percent), and U.S. Bancorp (52 percent).
  • In 2016, jobs postings for bilingual candidates in Iowa made up a significant share of postings in key industries, including in the Grocery and Related Product Merchant Wholesalers (36.8 percent) and the Accounting, Tax Preparation, Bookkeeping, and Payroll Services industry (24.5 percent).

Read the full report here.

About NAE

New American Economy is a bipartisan research and advocacy organization fighting for smart federal, state, and local immigration policies that help grow our economy and create jobs for all Americans. More…