Rural Task Force Members Unified on Workforce Development Bill

ST. PAUL, Minn. – The bi-partisan centerpiece legislation from the Senate Rural Task Force is now supported by both parties in the House of Representatives as well. The legislation invests in rural career counseling coordinators to advise youth of employment and education opportunities. The bill has already passed out of two Senate committees; the Senate Jobs, Agriculture and Rural Development Committee and the Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee, which both showed overwhelming support for the bill. Today, the bill is scheduled to be heard in the Environment, Economic Development and Agriculture Budget Division in the Senate beginning at noon in room 112 of the Capitol.

All of the Senate Task Force members, Chair Senator Tom Saxhaug (DFL-Grand Rapids), Sen. Julie Rosen (R-Vernon Center), Sen. Vicki Jensen (DFL-Owatonna), Sen. Bill Weber (R-Luverne), Sen. Kent Eken (DFL-Twin Valley), Sen. Gary Dahms (R-Redwood Falls), Sen. Kevin Dahle (DFL-Northfield), and Sen. Paul Gazelka (Nisswa) were joined by Rep. Bob Gunther (R-Fairmont), chief author of the legislation in the House, as well as other representatives at a press conference Wednesday. The group came together to discuss the merits of the bill, which invests $27 million over the biennium towards much-needed workforce development for rural Minnesota in hopes of stemming the shortage of skilled workers.

“All of the members of the Senate Rural Task Force have heard of stories about the need for a more trained, educated workforce in their districts. Minnesota’s economy is recovering and businesses want to expand, especially in rural Minnesota. This bill is about fitting a square peg into a square hole – it’s connecting young people to good jobs that are in demand in their local communities,” said Senator Saxhaug.

“As a legislator representing Greater Minnesota, it is hard to hear than that we are losing our youth to the metropolitan area because there are not enough jobs for them in rural Minnesota. We want to provide opportunities for kids in Greater Minnesota to be educated and trained for skills that are important for our local businesses,” said Sen. Rosen. “Providing mechanisms for our employers to influence the education of our students for the skills they will need to be able to earn a good wage in their community is an important objective of this legislative session.”

“One of the most critical resources for our rural communities is access to a skilled workforce,” said Sen. Jensen. “This bill creates an environment of collaboration where relationships are built between schools and businesses and different communities across the state. With this bill we’ll be able to replicate the best programs available in every corner of Minnesota.”

“The shortage of skilled workers in Greater Minnesota has grown worse and worse in recent years,” said Sen. Weber. “This bill will help bridge the gap between local businesses and skilled, educated workers who have been leaving their small towns for better jobs in the Twin Cities. Encouraging young workers to stay in rural Minnesota to begin their careers is a critical first step to rebuilding a strong rural workforce, which will revitalize communities across Minnesota. I am pleased that the Rural Task Force reached out to our workforce area to develop a workable program for rural Minnesota.”

“We need to make sure every high school student finds the best job available when they graduate, but that can’t happen unless they know what jobs are out there,” Rep. Gunther said. “With this legislation, we can better connect students with available job positions in their communities.”

Senator Tom Saxhaug
Tom Saxhaug represents District 5, which includes portions of Beltrami, Cass, Hubbard, and Itasca counties in the northern part of the state. He is a retired insurance agent. Sen. Saxhaug chairs the State Departments and Veterans Budget Division.

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