As various policymakers keep promoting costly government programs designed to create jobs in America, I’m reminded of Rudy Perpich, Minnesota’s colorful governor of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s who once outlined his re-election strategy with three words: “Jobs. Jobs. Jobs.” His approach made sense in an economy that was damaged by pockets of chronic unemployment.

Today? Not so much. Today’s mantra should be: “Workers. Workers. Workers.” Creating more jobs in an economy that is already gasping to fill positions that are already open will not help anyone. In fact, it will hurt.

Minnesota’s manufacturers were hardly surprised by the Department of Labor’s announcement last week that in April there were 9.3 million open jobs in America, the highest number ever.

Our research in the State of Manufacturing® has told us repeatedly that manufacturers understand that since there is no quick fix to this problem, but that government can play an important role in helping to solve it by taking a thoughtful long-term approach.

One important part of that solution might be to reinvigorate the important contributions that Minnesota’s tech schools can play in helping produce a future workforce that can exploit sophisticated technologies to help manufacturers enhance the productivity of the employees they have. 

An article in our current issue of Enterprise Minnesota magazine highlights how some tech schools are already trying to bridge that gap combining their already-limited resources with close guidance from the employers who will ultimately benefit from their programs.

Olsen Thielen CPA - Oct 2020

In the article, you’ll read how Pine Tech President Joe Mulford recruited Doug Wickstrom, an experienced manufacturer to oversee his school’s new automation curriculum. Using equipment that was mostly already on campus, Wickstrom a matching-funds donation from the nearby Frandsen Foundation and the advice of an advisory board of industry experts, hardware vendors, and alumni to custom build a curriculum based on hands-on experience.

“It’s all started just as you would start anything in industry. There’s no canned curriculum; it’s run as a project,” Wickstrom told us. “We focus on problem solving, learning how to learn, learning how to find your answers, and being independent.”

You’ll also read how Dr. Annesa Cheek, president of St. Cloud Technical & Community College, is planning to use a roughly $5 million expansion. Dr. Cheek describes how every program in the college’s manufacturing branch is overseen by an advisory board — totaling more than 300 industry experts and representing some 70 companies and institutions.

And you’ll see how Hennepin Technical College is aiming at a market of part-time students (average age, 29).

“I could literally double the number of students we have in the program and still have more than enough jobs for them. There are a lot of jobs out there for qualified individuals who are willing to look at something other than what they’ve already seen,” instructor Jeff Thorsad said. 

He told us that manufacturers reach out throughout the school year in hopes of snagging this spring’s graduates, but they’re too late.

“The companies that are really being successful are working with apprenticeship programs, hiring interns, hiring production workers, and then sending them to college to upskill. Companies need to work non-traditionally as well in order to find new workers. Simply listing a want ad is not going to get employees anymore.”

You may read the full article, Next Gen, How Minnesota’s technical colleges are training the next generation of industry specialists here.

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Events Calendar

July 15 – A Model for Manufacturing Excellence Using ISO 9001
ISO certification expert Keith Gadacz will be discussing ways to take your operation from average to excellent using the ISO 9001 business management system. Online via Zoom  Learn more and register

July 29 – Driving Continuous Improvement in Uncertain Times
Expert David Ahlquist will show you how managers can use CI to better communicate with shop floor employees and accomplish improvements each day. Online via Zoom  Learn more and register

August 10 – The Value of Peer Councils
Join us for a discussion with manufacturing executives on how Peer Councils can be leveraged to provide business insights, ideas and ways to keep improving and growing. Online via Zoom  Learn more and register

August 17 – How Your Employees Can Help Improve Profitability
When employees are satisfied, engaged, and feel a sense of community in the workplace, they will not only be more productive, but will be more resistant to turnover. Online via Zoom  Learn more and register

See more upcoming events

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Industry News

SkyWater appoints first Chief Human Resources Officer
The Bloomington-based semiconductor foundry has announced the appointment of Amanda Daniel as the company’s first CHRO, where she brings over 20 years of experience in high-tech manufacturing HR. June 8, Business Wire  Read more

Luverne company touts revolutionary ag manufacturing technology
Midwest Dry Cast is the only manufacturer in the U.S. that produces a five-inch concrete slat and beams using the dry-cast method for use inside hog barns. June 7, AgWeek  Read more

Bemidji area organizations receive funding to provide workforce training 
MN DLI and Office of Higher Eduction are working to provide $3.4 million in grants to train laborers in agriculture, healthcare, IT and manufacturing. June 8, Bemidji Pioneer  Read more

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