ST. PAUL, MINN – Greater Minnesota is experiencing problems attracting skilled technical labor to the many open job positions available across the state. Wisconsin had a very similar problem a few years back until it took control of the situation with quite remarkable results. The Senate’s bipartisan Rural Task Force, chaired by Sen. Tom Saxhaug (DFL-Grand Rapids) heard testimony on Monday about Wisconsin’s highly successful Manufacturing Alliance program.
“The alliance brought educational institutions, manufacturers, chambers of commerce and others together to find and train skilled workers for manufacturing jobs. It all started with increasing enrollment numbers in technical programs like welding at colleges across the state. That’s exactly what the members on the task force and I want to see happen in Minnesota,” said Sen. Saxhaug.
The Manufacturing Alliance program’s Strategic Partnerships Manager, Ann Franz, testified that the technical schools she worked with saw a 200 percent rise in enrollment in the seven years since the formation of the alliance. Franz explained that the huge increase was due in part to a very strategic marketing campaign through social media to get the word out to high school students about their jobs in the manufacturing sector. Spreading this information is another of Saxhaug’s goals.
“Wisconsin and some schools here in Minnesota have seen great success when high schools are able to partner with local manufacturing companies and get students interested in a technical degree before they even graduate from high school,” said Saxhaug. “The goal is to get students connected and trained for the jobs just down the road. If we want young people to stay in rural Minnesota, we need to show them the opportunities that are available. And the mining, power, and paper industries want to employ people from their own backyards.”
The Rural Task Force has focused much of its time on the workforce training issues in rural Minnesota and will likely propose legislation in the upcoming session to advance that goal. Additionally, Saxhaug and others on the task force have discussed the need to inventory all the state programs that currently address workforce needs to ensure the Senate does not duplicate any existing programs.
For more information on the Rural Task Force or any other legislative concerns, Sen. Saxhaug can be reached at Sen.Tom.Saxhaug@senate.mn or by calling his office at (651) 296-4136.