The Minnesota Skills GapMinnesota's future workforce isn't always trained in the skills they will need to compete.
By: Mikaela Rogers Ziegler, Sibley Scribe
Minnesota along with the nation as a whole is experiencing a conundrum that only adds to the unemployment problem. With the lack of post-secondary education and fewer technical education offerings in high schools, companies are having a hard time finding “skilled” workers. “Skilled” as defined by most people simply means having been trained or educated in a specific field or industry.
It is projected that in the coming years seventy percent of Minnesota’s jobs will require higher education after high school. Fully eighty five percent of jobs created in the next decade will require such skills. Most of these jobs will be in nursing, industrial engineering, and manufacturing. In fact, in the manufacturing sector, 2/3 of Minnesota employers rate a “high-performance work force” as the most important factor for success ; however, half of these companies report unfilled positions due to lack of qualified applicants. Minnesota-based company Lakeland Mold Company employs 83 workers, and it says it would hire several more if it could find workers with the right skills. But the skills needed to use the specific technological applications and heavy machinery used in production limits the applicant pool significantly. Other Minnesota companies such as 3M, Land O Lakes and Redwing Shoes are having the same problem. Technology has replaced manual labor, and now higher-skilled workers are needed to operate and implement that technology.
The problem is also similar in the medical field. Technology that is used to improve the health care experience of patients can require greater “skill” and training to use. Thus, it can limit the range of employable people. The manufacturing assembly line was long a haven for people who didn’t attend or complete college. But now with more technology being used in production, more and more highly-trained workers are needed. With this change in necessity, more and more underskilled workers are finding themselves unemployed.
With a lack of skilled workers here, some companies have turned to outsourcing jobs. It is a fantastic deal for them; they get fantastically qualified people whom they can pay far less than American workers. However outsourcing is exactly the opposite of what the American economy needs. But many people who would be considered “skilled” are being turned down for lack of experience. The rejection becomes a long turning wheel of unemployment. And its not as if people are not hiring.
To address this “skills gap,” Minnesota is undergoing several changes in mindset and implementing several changes. Groups such as the Greater Twin Cities United Way and the Governor’s Workforce Development Council, through their Skills@Work campaign, have brought over 200 leaders from business, education and other community groups to develop plans to address the skills gap at the local level. In greater Minnesota, regional teams are attempting to tackle issues such as increasing experiential learning opportunities in high schools and incorporating better career planning.
Sources consulted for this article include : Taking Steps to Close the Workforce Skills Gap, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Sarah Caruso and Inez Wildwood ; the Governor’s Workforce Development Council; Just How Big a Problem is Minnesota’s Skills Gap, Tom Robertson, MPR News.