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News & Press: MPMA News

Workforce Wednesday: Sen. Franken Announces ‘Advancing Career Pathways Innovation Act’

Wednesday, April 19, 2017  
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Sen. Al Franken said he isn’t suggesting that first graders should work on the factory floor, but he did advocate at his Advancing Career Pathways Summit that it’s never too early to get children interested in careers that involve computer programming, science, and engineering – all skills that are needed in today’s modern manufacturing facilities. 

The Summit at St. Paul College on Monday, April 17, brought together 350 educators, business leaders, policy leaders, and students from across Minnesota. The Summit also provided Franken with an opportunity to announce his plans to introduce his new “Advancing Career Pathways Innovation Act” that will:

  • Encourage local K-12 school districts in Minnesota and across the country to explore partnerships with business to expose elementary, middle, and high school students to a variety of career pathways.
  • Create a competitive grant program that specifically supports development of partnership programs between K-12 schools and industry and gets students engaged in pathways to fields such as manufacturing, computer programming, science, health care, engineering, and more.
  • Create a designated “Career Pathways Innovation Office” within the Department of Education, charged with providing technical assistance for schools.

For the past several years, Franken has touted his “Community College Career Fund Act,” to incentivize businesses to partner with community and technical colleges on training and support efforts. That led him to embark on a 17-community “Advancing Career Pathways Tour” where he and his staff spent six months learning about innovative ways Minnesota high schools and community colleges are partnering with local businesses. The goal is to close the skills gap and help direct students to pathways to good-paying jobs.

The skills needed for these jobs don’t necessarily involve a four-year degree, explained Kermit Kaleba, Director of the National Skills Coalition, who described them as “middle skills jobs” that require a high school diploma, and either a license, two-year degree, or specialized training.

“Half of the Minnesota jobs available are in the middle skills area – 46 percent between now and 2024,” Kaleba said, “The challenge is we need the resources to train youth. And we need to rely on partnerships to help develop the workforce that we need,” which will result in greater economic opportunities.

"As I've traveled around Minnesota, I've seen these public-private partnerships work,” Franken said at the Summit. “The effect of the skills gap in our state isn't just about individual businesses or students - it's about keeping our economy competitive in the 21st century.

"Countries like Germany and Switzerland have an education and workforce training system that understands the value of on-the-job learning. Businesses, workers, and our economy will all benefit if more people are able to learn the skills they need to fill high-tech in-demand jobs. This challenge is one that is best tackled when educators and employers come together to create partnerships and programs that offer real solutions."

During the Summit, attendees heard from representatives from Alexandria Public Schools, Rochester Public Schools, the Applied Learning Institute, and the Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District about the success of their respective career pathways programs. There were also facilitated discussions in 10 breakout sessions where participants discussed how to create, expand, and improve business and education partnerships.

To watch a Facebook live video of the first segment of the Summit, click here.