Al Franken

Senator Al Franken’s recent visit to HTC’s Brooklyn Park campus was highlighted by a roundtable discussion that brought together leaders from manufacturing, education, and business and industry associations to discuss the needs of Minnesota’s manufacturing industry and the state’s shortage of highly skilled workers. For participants, it offered a focus on the challenges of the 21st century.

“I love the collaboration and look forward to more opportunities like this,” said Kimberly Arrigoni, controller at Haberman Machine in St. Paul, and a member of the family that has owned the precision machining company for 30 years. She believes that businesses need to help support the path of education for employees. “I’m a fan of standardized training that’s tied to NIMS (National Institute of Metalworking Skills) certification because it produces reliable results. Then we know a prospective employee’s skills,” explained Arrigoni, adding that Haberman Machine currently has 53 employees and is poised to hire 10 to 15 more people in the coming months. Those additions at the company will range from entry level to highly skilled to engineers.

That type of growth is good news for Minnesota, but what does the future hold for manufacturers who need workers with high tech skills?

For the workforce in general and manufacturing in particular, education is the key to preparing individuals for jobs today and in the decades to come.

Opening the doors of education
“From the perspective of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, we need to carefully evaluate which industries are growing and align programs to meet the needs in credit, non-credit, and customized training programs,” commented Mary Rothchild, director for strategic partnership and workforce development for Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU).

With offerings such as HTC’s M-Powered program that helps unemployed and displaced workers quickly develop entry level skills, she sees one of the ways to open the doors of education. Further, with collaborative academic programming that creates partnerships between institutions, individuals are able to complete an associate degree at colleges such as HTC followed by completion of a Bachelor of Applied Science at one of MnSCU’s four-year institutions. “Creating bridges in multiple directions will allow greater access to programs and to jobs in an economy being driven by highly skilled workers,” she concluded.

Examining long-term solutions requires a look at all levels of Minnesota’s educational landscape, including the path students take on the way to post-secondary education.

Ensuring students are college and career ready
New Minnesota Department of Education standards with increased rigor and requirements mean manufacturers will see the average student exiting high school with stronger math, science and technical reading skills in the near future, explained Christ Otto, a licensed school counselor, and president of the Minnesota School Counselors Association. “However,” Otto emphasized, “there are no state standards that require schools to help students transition into the post-secondary level and therefore efforts across the state are hit and miss.” She sees the need for Minnesota, now ranked 48th in the U.S. for ratio of students to school counselors, to recognize the vital role those counselors play in ensuring students are college and career ready.

Thanks to events such as the roundtable discussion with Sen. Franken at HTC, more Minnesotans are working on strategies to develop a globally competitive workforce for the state’s manufacturing industry. That examination of challenges and opportunities facing Minnesota makes it clear that collaboration is the way to find solutions. As Chris Otto observed, “The event took a productive step toward helping manufacturing and education gain insight into each other’s world.”

Last updated by jlaabs : 2012-02-13 04:44:12