I recently accepted an appointment to serve on a task force formed to help Minnesota’s education system better match the state’s workforce.
It is officially called the Career Pathways and Technical Education Advisory Task Force and it was established through legislation I authored in the 2013 session. We will be working to provide the Legislature with recommendations on how to make structural improvements in secondary and postsecondary to help Minnesotans develop skills sought by the state’s workforce.
Here is the issue, in a nutshell: The most recent Minnesota Dept. of Employment and Economic Development report shows 45 percent of businesses in the state indicate a moderate or serious workforce shortage. The most severe gap is with skilled production (58 percent), scientist and engineering (40 percent).
Mike Rowe – you may recognize him from the TV show “Dirty Jobs” or as the pitchman in Ford commercials – recently weighed in on the issue. He explained how our society’s ever-increasing emphasis on four-year degrees has shifted the focus away from skilled trades.
Here’s a link to the full Rowe article, including this quote from him: “We’re lending money we don’t have, to kids who will never be able to pay it back, for jobs that no longer exist.”
Our task force’s goal is to diminish the skills gap we have in Minnesota by learning how we can develop workers who are prepared to meet workforce demands. Of course, four-year institutions still provide valuable services. The point is we need to do a better job of putting tomorrow’s workers in position to capitalize on their particular skills by filling valuable roles that suit them best. That could include a four-year degree, a two-year degree or another pathway altogether.
We face significant challenges, especially with an aging workforce. We can do much more to match workforce development with the professionals and training providers in Minnesota and I am pleased to be a part of this mission.