Posted: July 12, 2012

Contact: Doug Anderson, doug.anderson@MinnState.edu, 651-201-1426

Launch Marks Continuation of Initiative to Address State’s Job Skills Gap

Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU), the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) will host seven listening sessions around the state to assess employers’ workforce needs in the agriculture and agri-business industries.

The sessions will be held between July 17-31 in Austin, Crookston, Little Falls, Mankato, Marshall, Minneapolis and Moorhead. Sessions will focus on occupations involving agricultural mechanics and equipment, animal science, farm business operations and management, food science and technology, and plant and soil science.

“The agricultural sector, including producers, agribusiness and related industries plays an essential role in the success and prosperity of our state,” said MnSCU Chancellor Steven Rosenstone. “By listening to employers, we can obtain a much better understanding of their needs and ensure that higher education is delivering the right academic programs and preparing graduates with the skills necessary for the future success of Minnesota’s agricultural economy.”

The agriculture sector listening sessions continue a statewide “Workforce Assessment” initiative launched to address the state’s skills gap by engaging Minnesota companies in developing precise projections of how many workers and professionals, with what kinds of skills, will be needed in which regions of the state, and for what kinds of jobs. Minnesota’s need for an educated workforce is greater than all but one other state and the District of Columbia. By 2018, 70 percent of all jobs in the state will require some postsecondary education beyond high school. Companies across Minnesota indicate that while many good jobs are available, there is a shortage of people with the needed skills and education to do these jobs. This skills gap constrains the state’s economic growth, increases unemployment and limits opportunities for both businesses and individuals.

To date, 44 sessions have been held addressing workforce needs in six industry sectors: energy, engineering, healthcare, information technology, manufacturing and transportation. Sessions addressing workforce needs in the financial services and natural resources sectors are being planned for fall. Data gathered from the sessions will be used by the state colleges and universities to better align the certificate and degree programs, and worker retraining and customized training programs with the needs of Minnesota business and industry.

Local chambers of commerce and economic development organizations, the Minnesota Initiatives foundations, the Governor’s Workforce Development Council and other groups are participating with MnSCU, DEED and the Minnesota Chamber in this coordinated effort.