Since January 2007, thousands of manufacturing workers in Minnesota have either lost their jobs due to foreign trade or are in danger of job loss.
Manufacturers across the region are experiencing a severe skills gap – they can find plenty of lower-skilled workers but high-skilled technicians in advanced manufacturing disciplines are scarce.
To attack this trend, Central Lakes College of Staples and Brainerd, along with Pine Technical College of Pine City and St. Cloud Technical and Community College, formed a Minnesota consortium with fellow members of the state’s 360 Manufacturing and Applied Engineering Center of Excellence at Bemidji State University and other schools in the Minnesota State College and University System.
Last year, the consortium created the Regional Advanced Manufacturing Re-Training program, the results of which aim to directly lead to high-wage, high-skilled employment outcomes for more than 3,900 workers in Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Playing a central role in the overall education program is video guidance, a leading strategic visual communications company based in Bloomington, Minn. Video Guidance will deploy a new telepresence video conferencing system, funded through a Federal Department of Labor TAACCCT (Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training) grant awarded to the consortium, which will connect companies and colleges to upgrade skills of the manufacturing workforce.
College Manufacturing Faculty, in cooperation with Adult Basic Education and College Developmental Education personnel, will offer introductory, core manufacturing courses to expand the educated labor pool. Enhanced online courses will emphasize advanced manufacturing areas of machining, metals, plastics and composites, automation technology and rapid prototyping. The plan is to educate Veterans, and TAA-impacted and other dislocated workers.
In addition to dozens of companies and industry partners, the program also enlists public workforce system partners, including Veterans organizations.