Recent data from the National Association of Manufacturers shows how Minnesota’s manufacturers have expanded steeply and steadily in recent years. That growth has generated 300,000 jobs, another 885,000 supporting jobs, $53 billion in output, and an average annual wage of nearly $90,000. Continuing that expansion demands a quality workforce, a persistent challenge for all employers.

That’s why it’s so gratifying to see local technical colleges and nonprofits working closely with manufacturers to help solve our thorny workforce challenges. These allies are on the front lines alongside manufacturers, developing training programs, as well as addressing childcare and housing issues.

Our technical colleges and Minnesota’s Initiative Foundations have developed especially strong bonds with manufacturers in Greater Minnesota.

In recent years, Minnesota’s technical and community colleges have appointed presidents from within. These leaders understand their communities because they live there. They prioritize outreach, and they know the value of local manufacturers.
Fifteen years ago manufacturers often complained about the colleges, and the colleges complained about the manufacturers.

Today, they work closely to tackle training and workforce development challenges. The colleges are eager to customize training and implement flexible class schedules that fit the evolving needs of employers and students. In many areas, colleges and manufacturers are working with high schools to identify and begin training future manufacturing employees on those campuses even earlier in their careers.

The state’s Initiative Foundations — born of a grant from 3M’s McKnight Foundation and dedicated to economic growth in six regions across Minnesota — have been long-time partners of Enterprise Minnesota. They support the focus groups and events related to our annual State of Manufacturing® survey, giving them an inside and timely understanding of the challenges facing manufacturers.

The Initiative Foundations provide grants and business loans and spearhead programs that promote economic growth and stability in the regions they serve. They have taken a lead in addressing the childcare crisis facing Greater Minnesota, knowing quality daycare is a barrier to a stable workforce for manufacturers and other employers. In some areas, the Foundations are also working with local leaders to address housing shortages that also limit workforce growth.

The timing for this valuable cooperation couldn’t be better. Minnesota manufacturing is strong, and global dynamics — starting with COVID and continuing with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and war in the Middle East — are driving many OEMs to seek suppliers closer to home. The state’s manufacturers have already seen increased demand, and we couldn’t be more thankful for the network of allies that will continue to help them take full advantage of these and future opportunities.

Return to the Spring 2024 issue of Enterprise Minnesota® magazine.