Report emphasizes need for workforce development

The Governor’s Workforce Development Council recently released their 2011 policy advisory document. This Council was established in 1998 and includes representation from many sectors, including: business and industry, community-based organizations, education, local government, organized labor, state agencies, and the State Legislature. They are charged with providing policy recommendations to the Governor and legislature for workforce development.

In their 2011 report, “All Hands on Deck,” the Council concluded that the key to Minnesota’s economic competitiveness is an educated, highly skilled workforce. It is estimated that by 2018, 70 percent of jobs in Minnesota will require and education beyond high school. With many baby boomers reaching retirement age, Minnesota employers will begin to see a shortage of highly-skilled workers.

“The report advises that if we want to attract businesses to our state, we need a quality workforce development system in place. We need to provide our next generation of workers with the training and education they need to fill the shoes of the baby boomers who are exiting the workforce,” said Sen. Sieben. “Many studies have shown that public investments in workforce education and training programs are far outweighed by the monetary benefits from increased tax receipts, increased productivity, and reduced reliance on public assistance.”

One challenge facing Minnesota is the fact that workforce growth is expected to slow considerably. Over the past five years, 30,000 new workers have been added to the workforce each year. By 2025, that number is expected to decrease to 3,000. The Twin Cities will lose 750,000 workers by 2029.

The report found that the price of a higher education is a significant barrier to working learners seeking training opportunities. Historically, the cost of a two-year college education has increased annually by 4.7 percent. Concurrently, low-skill workers’ wages have remained unchanged for nearly thirty years, providing a cost barrier.

“For the most part, working learners have families and full-time jobs, so it’s challenging to find the time and money to pursue a higher education,” said Sen. Sieben. This report made it clear if we want meet our state’s demand for skilled workers, and receive the resulting economic benefit, the state should assist in providing affordable and accessible opportunities for workforce training.”

Some of the Governor’s Workforce Development Council recommendations are:

· Targeting grant and loan forgiveness programs to low-income adults who pursue and complete education and training. (A similar program exists in Washington state)

· Establish a workforce taskforce with leaders from all sectors to develop a plan to extend the work life of aging workers

· Increase opportunities for students to pursue postsecondary credits while in high school.

· Expand work opportunities for Minnesotans with disabilities.

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 more productivity growth and higher incomes.

“People with associate’s degrees earn 29 percent more than those with only a high school education, and those with bachelor’s degrees can earn 62 percent more,” said Sen. Sieben. “A higher education provides benefits to both family and state budgets.”

Senator Katie Sieben
Assistant Majority Leader Senate District 54
Katie Sieben is the Assistant Majority Leader and represents District 54, which includes portions of Dakota and Washington counties. She is the chair of the Subcommittee on Elections and the vice chair of the Rules and Administration Committee.

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