Report: Minnesota’s economic success depends on workforce development

Recently, the Governor’s Workforce Development Council released their 2011 policy advisory document. In their report, “All Hands on Deck,” they conclude that the key to Minnesota’s economic competitiveness is an educated, highly skilled workforce.

The Council was established in 1998 and includes representation from many sectors of Minnesota, including business and industry, local government, education, labor, state agencies, and the legislature. They are charged with providing workforce development policy recommendations to the Governor and legislature.

The report estimated that by 2018, 70 percent of jobs in Minnesota will require an education beyond high school. With many baby boomers reaching retirement age, Minnesota employers will begin to see a shortage of highly-skilled workers.

In addition to losing aging workers, Minnesota’s workforce growth is expected to slow considerably over the next twenty years. Over the past five years, our state has added 30,000 new workers to the workforce annually. However, by 2025, that number is expected to decrease to 3,000 workers per year. Rural Minnesota is going to be hit especially hard by this decline in new workers.

The report advises that if we want to attract businesses to our state, we need a quality workforce development system in place. It’s important that we provide our future workers with the training and education they need to be able to fulfill these businesses’ skill and productivity needs.

One-third of Minnesota’s 2035 workforce is already of working age, so this means our state has 1.2 million potential working learners. Most of these working learners have families and are working full-time. Historically, the cost of a two-year college education has increased annually by 4.7 percent, while at the same time; low-skill wages have remained stagnant for the last thirty years. Therefore, the report found that the price of a higher education is a significant barrier to these folks

To combat Minnesota’s workforce challenges, the Council developed several recommendations, including grant and loan programs for low-income adults who pursue and complete education and training, increased opportunities to earn postsecondary credit while in high school, expanded work opportunities for disabled Minnesotans, and developing a plan to extend the work life of aging workers.

I sincerely hope that the new legislative majorities will give these recommendations consideration this session and make workforce development a priority. The long-term economic benefits to our state cannot be denied. The report concluded that advances in education account for ten to 25 percent of a region’s economic growth, and regions with higher levels of education have higher incomes. Many studies have also proven that investments in workforce education and training programs pay off significantly with monetary benefits from increased tax receipts and reduced reliance on public assistance.

As we move forward with resolving a historic budget deficit, we must remember our reputation for educated workers is something that has traditionally given Minnesota a competitive advantage, and something that must be maintained to lead us to long-term economic success.

I encourage you to contact me with your questions or comments on any issue. You may call me at (651)-296-0293, send an e-mail to sen.tony.lourey@senate.mn, or write to 125 State Office Building, St. Paul, MN 55155.

Senator Tony Lourey
Tony Lourey represents District 11, which includes portions of Carlton, Kanabec, Pine and St. Louis counties in the northeastern part of the state.

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