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Industrial education committee hears proposal to address teacher shortages

There is a shortage of industrial education teachers in high schools across Minnesota, a situation illustrated through a personal story Rep. Gene Pelowski, Jr. (DFL-Winona) shared Wednesday.

Pelowski noted that in his time at Winona High School many years ago, there were nine industrial educators teaching students the skills they could use in trades such as construction and manufacturing.

Today, there is one — and he’s on the verge of retirement.

Pelowski, who chairs the House Industrial Education and Economic Development Finance and Policy Committee, said he plans to reintroduce legislation that stalled last year that would appropriate $400,000 to fund pilot projects to train industrial and technical educators at Winona State University and Minnesota State College Southeast.

The goal of the legislation is “to ensure that every high school senior in Minnesota would have the option of graduating not just with a traditional degree, but also with an employable skill set,” Pelowski said.

“Minnesota has an alarming shortage of workers in the trades and in manufacturing,” said Scott Olson, president of Winona State University. “This creates a drag on the Minnesota economy.”

Training more technical teachers is the best way to solve that problem, he said.

The legislation would appropriate $250,000 for Winona State University to develop a teacher preparation program that leads to initial licensure or certification in a technical license area such as construction, manufacturing, transportation, or communications technologies.

Students in the teachers preparation program could receive technical training in their chosen field at Minnesota State College Southeast (which would receive $150,000), or would be given credit for any work experience they have.

The ability to receive credit for work experience is key to enticing professionals already working in technical and industrial trades to return to school to become licensed to teach their trades, said Chad Dull, vice president of Academics at Minnesota State College Southeast.

If the pilot programs are funded, Dull said that the two schools would work hard to ensure that their teacher training programs would offer efficient ways for current professionals to earn their teaching credentials.

Pelowski said he intends to reintroduce the legislation this session, and also expects to get a Senate sponsor for the bill.

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