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Minnesota colleges get $17.5M to train students for jobs of the future

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The U.S. Department of Labor will send funds to 14 campuses within the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system in an effort to prepare the next generation of workers.

MPR News reports the $17.5 million in federal grants will fund training for 3,000 students over the next three years. The Star Tribune reports the workforce training grants are geared at preparing students to work in the manufacturing, construction and industrial sectors, where a skills gap has been identified.

The Minnesota Advanced Manufacturing Partnership will distribute $15 million to MnSCU schools, including those in the Twin Cities, North Mankato, Bemidji, Duluth and Willmar. The remaining grants will be administered by the Construction and Utilities Succeed Program, which will oversee $2.5 million targeted for Detroit Lakes, Fergus Falls, Moorhead and Wadena.

The funding comes as manufacturers complain that not enough workers have the specialty training and advanced skills to work in high-tech factories and sophisticated industrial settings.

The funds will help schools buy machining equipment, pay for apprenticeship and internship instructors, and assist in getting students certified and licensed. Employers with the partnership will pay student salaries and, in some cases, tuition.

Workforce training has become an issue this election season. Incumbent DFL U.S. Sen. Al Franken highlights the skills gap in a campaign ad. In a Monday campaign stop in Moorhead, Forum News Service reports Franken met with area employers who told him they need more skilled workers to fill industrial and health care jobs.

Employers from companies including Sanford Health, D&M Industries and American Crystal Sugar told Franken they worry about filling the region’s demand for skilled labor as many employees near retirement.

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