Executive Summary June 2000

In the face of rapid technological change and global competitive forces, Minnesota employers are challenged to maintain the skills and productivity of their workers. Incumbent workers represent a vast and growing market for training and educational services. MnSCU colleges and universities have emerged as a viable source for meeting the training needs of the incumbent workforce. In fiscal year 1999, MnSCU executed over 4,000 contracts to deliver training services to Minnesota employers. More than 200,000 Minnesota workers received MnSCU training services.

MnSCU has built instructional, sales, and curriculum capacity to deliver training to the incumbent workforce. Dedicated, entrepreneurial employees manage incumbent workforce training programs. Collectively, colleges and universities employ a sales force of about 200 representatives that market training programs to Minnesota employers and incumbent workers. A pool of nearly 4,000 instructors (about 500 instructors are full or part-time faculty who also teach credit-based courses) has been assembled to deliver courses in a wide range of subject matters.

MnSCU colleges and universities have learned that there are many benefits derived from building incumbent workforce training programs to complement traditional academic programs. Training programs serve as a research and development vehicle and connect colleges and universities to Minnesota employers, their communities and regional economies. The programs provide great potential for marketing educational services, developing faculty, and expanding MnSCU's physical presence.

Despite the efforts to build its capacity for incumbent workforce training, MnSCU has barely scratched the surface of what the Minnesota Citizens League estimates is a $2 billion market. MnSCU has a unique opportunity to leverage its cumulative resources to help fill the rapidly escalating training needs of Minnesota employers. It must seek creative ways, however, to maintain institutional autonomy, while blending colleges and universities into a unified entity that can compete effectively in the corporate environment. We recommend that traditional organizational structures and roles be re-examined.

In fiscal year 2000, MnSCU invested over $12 million in supporting the development and delivery of incumbent workforce training programs. We found, however, that the distribution of those funds was not equitable and recommend that new methods of targeting system-level funding be explored. Also, greater accountability must be achieved for system&ndsh;level funding. The concept of market pricing requires extensive study. Financial reporting measures for incumbent workforce training programs must be established to generate meaningful, consistent financial information.

This study also identified system-wide opportunities to improve operations for incumbent workforce training programs. Collective efforts will allow colleges and universities to achieve operational efficiencies. Furthermore, there are numerous opportunities for college and university program managers to improve their operations by learning from the best practices developed by other MnSCU colleges and universities.