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Bill seeks more funding to train students in high-demand health care fields

With a little more help from the state, a successful health care job-training program in Rochester could expand to nearby communities and deliver multiple benefits to both the students being trained and the communities where they may eventually find employment.

That was the message Rep. Liz Boldon (DFL-Rochester) brought to the House Workforce and Business Development Finance and Policy Committee Monday in the form of HF679. It would appropriate $950,000 in the 2022-23 biennium from the state Workforce Development Fund for a grant to Bridges to Healthcare.

The Rochester-based program provides career education and job training in high-demand health care fields to individuals facing barriers to employment.

“Over the past decade, this program in southeast Minnesota has proven its success by enrolling more than 600 students in various certification and degree programs,” Boldon said.

Boldon sponsors the bill that was held over for possible omnibus bill inclusion. The companion, SF573, sponsored by Sen. Gene Dornink (R-Hayfield), awaits action by the Senate Jobs and Economic Growth Finance and Policy Committee.

Bridges to Healthcare is a nonprofit public-private partnership, Bolton said, that is in the process of expanding into Albert Lea, Austin, and Owatonna.

Many enrollees are non-traditional students, such as recent immigrants, low-income and older individuals, said Jinny Rietmann, executive director, Workforce Development, Inc., a Bridges to Healthcare partner.

Sixty percent of program graduates get jobs in long-term care facilities, she said, which have faced chronic shortages of qualified workers.

Rietmann calls state investment in the program a “win-win-win situation” because it would help individuals achieve economic security with livable wages and benefits, ease the substantial workforce shortages in health care, and increase equity in communities by expanding tax revenue and lowering the cost of public support.

Through previous legislation, Bridges to Healthcare has received $250,000 each year from the Workforce Development Fund between 2018 and 2021.

The fund was created by the Legislature in 1990 as a dedicated fund for the state Dislocated Worker Program managed by the Job Skills Partnership Board.

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