Minnesota's two biggest challenges: developing talent pool, eliminating disparities

Let's all be a part of the solution
Guest Editorial

Minnesota West will soon award 661 diplomas, certificates, and associate degrees for spring commencement, and another 288 students have completed the Certified Nursing Assistant courses. Collectively, 949 awards will have been earned, and we know over 85 percent of these graduates will stay, live, work and raise families in this great state.

Regional local employers have significant opportunities in high-demand, high-wage careers for talented Minnesotans, but there are more jobs than there are graduates. Yet, in the spring of 2014 only 69 out every 100 Minnesota high school graduates went on to some form of post-secondary institution, with 19 leaving the state. For students of color this drops to 60 out of 100, and for students from low-income households the number is reduced to 53 out 100. 

As such, we believe there are two pressing needs that require immediate attention: developing the talent Minnesota businesses need to drive the state’s continued economic vitality and eliminating the racial and economic disparities that keep too many Minnesotans from having the opportunity to become that talent. Failing to address these needs would put our future economic vitality at risk.

Local communities and industry partners need every single one of our residents to be equipped with the education necessary to advance their careers and lives. The challenges of attracting and developing talent in the most affordable, accessible fashion focuses the college’s limited resources. Minnesota West will add mechatronics and precision machining to its list of course offerings this fall in order to align studies with labor needs, but we cannot do it alone.

This session, our Legislature is considering two requests that will have a direct impact on our ability to provide the solutions our students, communities, and industry partners need: funding to take care of the buildings and facilities we have and a MnSCU supplemental budget request of $21 million to protect programs and the people who deliver those programs on our campuses. 

We all have a vested interest in working together to solve the looming talent crisis – and the disparities that are contributing to it – through funding quality, affordable, and accessible higher education. We are grateful that the governor and lieutenant governor support our efforts and, with your support, we are confident that the Legislature will too. 

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