Grant program proposed | BrainerdDispatch.com | Brainerd, Minnesota

Grant program proposed

Posted: February 10, 2012 - 9:09pm

The Governor’s Workforce Development Council reaffirmed its commitment to a policy initiative that outlines a strategy for building a stronger state workforce.

The group presented its reissued report for 2012, “All Hands on Deck: Fifteen Recommendations for Strengthening Minnesota’s Workforce,” to Gov. Mark Dayton, who recently attended the group’s quarterly meeting in Minneapolis.

“All Hands on Deck” offers strategies for improving education and training to ensure Minnesotans have the right skills to fill jobs in the 21st century economy.

The initiative was drafted in response to concerns about a growing skills gap in the state. Many of the strategies in the initiative mirror ideas Dayton laid out in his jobs plan last month.

“We’re encouraged by Gov. Dayton’s commitment to making Minnesota’s workforce a top priority,” said Inez Wildwood, who chairs the GWDC and is manager of talent acquisition and development at Duluth-based Allete Inc. “These proposals are crucial for ensuring that Minnesota has a strong workforce that will keep the state competitive globally.”

“All Hands on Deck” includes a recommendation to expand the Minnesota FastTRAC initiative. FastTRAC is a state program that helps educationally underprepared adults succeed in well-paying careers by integrating basic skills education and career-specific training in fields that are in high demand, including health care, education and manufacturing.

In the jobs plan that he announced on Jan. 11, Dayton recommended the Legislature approve an additional $4.5 million in annual spending for FastTRAC expansion, with a goal of serving 3,000 Minnesotans by 2013.

The report also includes recommendations to improve postsecondary opportunities for adults who want to extend their work lives or gain new career training. In his jobs plan, Dayton proposed a Minnesota Opportunity Grants Pilot Program, which would provide $2,000 grants for 2,000 Minnesotans for up to two semesters of training for jobs that pay more than 175 percent of the federal poverty level.

Expanding work opportunities for people with disabilities and providing opportunities for high school students to succeed in careers and postsecondary educations are among other goals of the initiative.

The Governor’s Workforce Development Council comprises 32 members from business and industry, community-based organizations, education, local government, organized labor, state agencies and the Minnesota Legislature. The mission of the group is to analyze and recommend workforce development policies that will ensure Minnesota has a globally competitive workforce. More details on the group are available at www.gwdc.org.