Building Minnesota's Workforce: Competing to Win

Posted: October 16, 2000

Contact: Doug Anderson, doug.anderson@so.mnscu.edu, 651-201-1426

By Morris J. Anderson

Your committee has taken on a huge responsibility and I congratulate you for dedicating the time in a busy fall schedule to work with us on what may be the most critical issue facing Minnesota.

We are here today because, despite all our best efforts, Minnesota faces a serious gap between the skills of our workers and the abilities required by business and industry to compete.

It's not a question of whether Minnesota has done well in the past. We have. But the state must position itself strategically in order to enjoy its share of expected future growth.

More than a half-dozen studies all point to what's at stake: our state's future economic vitality. They also point to some common themes. Employers want.

  • Available workers who are properly trained
  • Skills for the knowledge age
  • Training and retraining for incumbent workers
The collection of reports we have amassed has elevated the issues. They offer helpful ideas. But taken together, these reports cannot be mistaken for a workforce development plan.

The Governor's Mini-Cabinet has recommended a number of changes that deal with the organization and delivery of state and federal programs. This plan is a good start. Each of us with responsibilities in state government can take the framework and move forward, and I'll do my part. But this should not be mistaken for a workforce development plan.

The first line of Governor Jesse Ventura's Big Vision says: "We envision Minnesota as the best place to grow a business because of high-skilled workers and a supportive tax climate." It's a fine vision. But this also should not be mistaken for a workforce development plan.

Minnesota needs a strategic workforce development plan that focuses on action. And if you look at other states like Georgia, Michigan and Washington that have taken the workforce issue on in a significant way, you'll see that education cannot be a footnote at the bottom of the page. It's at the center.

MnSCU's Plan

Our state colleges and universities have a strategic workforce plan. In the absence of a statewide plan, we have developed our own plan to address the critical educational connections needed to stay competitive.

Our plan has six parts:

  • 1) Build industry partnerships
  • 2) Develop new innovative programs
  • 3) Implement a workforce tuition strategy
  • 4) Reach out strategically
  • 5) Create regional alliances to deliver programs of excellence
  • 6) Build a state-of-the-art e-learning system

Before I get into the detail of these initiatives, I'd like to briefly remind you of our capacity and MnSCU's commitment to growing Minnesota's economy.

  • Minnesota State Colleges and Universities produce about 27,000 graduates every year (that's nearly three times as many as the University of Minnesota).
  • Today, one in every five Minnesotans in the workforce is a graduate of one of our schools.
  • Together Minnesota state colleges and universities produce:
  • 54 percent of all IT workers in Minnesota.
  • 50 percent of the state's new teachers
  • 86 percent of Minnesota's nurses
  • 90 percent of all new law enforcement officers
  • We are located in 46 Minnesota communities, in rural areas, the suburbs and the metropolitan areas.
  • We will serve about 233,000 students this year in credit courses, a 10.1 percent increase in just two years) (FYE)
  • We lead the way in providing non-credit training for incumbent workers. Last year we worked more than 5,000 employers to develop and deliver customized training to 240,000 employees. That's training-made to order-for 240,000 employees across the state
With that broad understanding on the table, let me walk you through our six-part plan.

The first part is to build targeted industry partnerships. We began two and a half years ago with five targeted industry partnerships, a bold new step for our colleges. It was an experiment in shared leadership funded by the Legislature.

Our universities and two-year colleges have been working productively with industry to re-design, rethink and re-align our delivery system to meet the needs of these critical industries now and into the future. Our first five partnerships involved:

  • The printing industry.
  • Precision manufacturing
  • Health care
  • Taconite production and
  • Information technology

 

Let me give you an example of what we learned from just one of these partnerships: Health care.
  • First we looked at access. This is where Minnesota's health care employees are located. (Map of Minnesota health care employees)
  • Then we looked at where our schools offer health care programs. (Map of MnSCU health care programs) But it's not that simple. We offer more than 30 different kinds of health care programs, from nurse assistant to pre-med., to registered nurse, to surgical technology. It's not enough to have a health care program - we need to look at the complement of programs we offer in each region.

For example, the impact of closing one radiologic technologist program in Northern Minnesota hurts employers in more than 12 northern counties.

  • The health care industry told us when we move or close programs we need to take a regional and a statewide view, and work with industry to gauge the impact.
  • They also told us we need to do a much better job creating career pathways for incumbent workers - people already in the workforce. And we are doing that.
  • In turn, we asked the industry to work with us in recruiting workers by examining their own wage structures and work environment. We can't produce more nurses than are willing to enter the field.
  • Both the system and industry learned that we won't succeed by pointing fingers at one another. It must truly be a partnership.
This partnership, and the four others will continue to build on what they learned.

And taking what we learned from the first five, we plan to engage eight more industries in the same type of partnership redesign effort.

  • Agribusiness
  • Telecommunications
  • Transportation (specifically automotive and aviation)
  • Teacher preparation
  • Finance and retail
  • Forest products & paper
  • Biomedical devices
  • The construction trades
The goal is to serve industries that are critical to Minnesota's future growth and prosperity.

We know from the first group of partnerships that at least two things are essential to making these work.

  • We will commit to adopting industry skill standards whenever we possibly can. Teaching to national industry standards gives industry the assurance that our graduates have the skills they need, independent of which program or area they studied. Anywhere that a national industry skill standard exists, we ought to teach to those standards. This is no small task. Adopting industry standards involves retooling hundreds of courses in partnership with the industry.
  • These industries also demand we use leading edge equipment and technology for training. If we don't have access to the right equipment, we will not be able to give our students the skills they need to succeed. We know that. But when a state-of-the-art printing press costs $2 million dollars, it becomes easier said than done.
Our schools desperately need an infusion of resources for equipment. And in securing those resources we will require industry to be part of the equation.

The second part of our six-point plan deals with developing new, innovative programs.

Fifteen years ago, the pace of change in both course content and delivery could be absorbed by faculty in their daily work. Today new information and electronic teaching tools require faculty to revise their courses continuously. Campuses need dedicated resources to stay on the cutting edge. And they need enhanced mechanisms for sharing innovative curriculum with their peers at other MnSCU schools.

Our 35 state colleges and universities closed or suspended 470 programs last year and created 204 new ones. We are not talking about courses; we are talking about 204 new programs last year alone. These included:

  • 33 new software/IT programs
  • 19 new health care related programs
  • 17 new manufacturing programs
The fastest growing type of curriculum delivery is on-line, which involves a whole new set of skills for many of our faculty. We know we need to be at the forefront.

Part three, we want to implement a tuition

policy that is designed to build the workforce strategically.

  • MnSCU will ask the legislature to bring down the barriers caused by non-resident tuition. I'd like to see Minnesota open our doors further to students from outside Minnesota by allowing them to pay the same tuition rate as our residents.

By eliminating our non-resident tuition surcharge we will attract ambitious college-minded people to our state. And we know that many of them - perhaps as high as 80 to 90 percent- will stay in Minnesota to work after they graduate. This policy change, combined with other training and education initiatives, will help us attract the kinds of students and workers who are in the highest demand.

  • We also will ask industry to come to the table with tuition incentives for students who want to enter particular fields.
Part four of our plan is about strategic outreach. Industry has asked us to work with them on helping young people make informed decisions about careers in high-wage occupations. Our schools are getting better at showing students where the jobs and the money are.

But we are not in the best position to recruit students into particular industries. That's the job of industry. And for those industries that are successful, we can offer an educational pathway that will make our graduates competitive.

One of the best ways to reach young people and displaced workers today is through the Internet. We have a good start in ISEEK. ISEEK is emerging as both a great tool for high school students who are trying to figure out what to do as well as a tool for the working person who is compelled to retool and change careers.

We can develop more tools to help young people make informed career choices and find the educational programs best suited to get them where they want to go.

In addition to these steps, we need to revisit an issue that you have been talking to us about for several years - transfer. I believe we have made significant progress, by instituting dozens of new articulation agreements between our two-year state colleges and four-year state universities. But the problem is far from solved. Our voluntary and cooperative approach has not gone far enough.

I continue to hear, and I'm sure you hear, too many horror stories about students whose credits from a two-year state college would not transfer to a four-year state university but would be accepted by a private college or an out-of-state four-year institution.

In my view, this is simply an arrogance that we can no longer afford.

I believe we need to get far more aggressive in taking on credit and transfer issues. I believe we are at the point where we need to move toward a providing an actual guarantee to our students that relevant credits earned at one of our institutions will transfer to another of our institutions without loss of time or money to the student.

Another part of the answer is in providing more Bachelor of Applied Science degrees, designed to help students with two-year technical college degrees translate their learning toward four-year degrees in their technical fields.

We also need to do a better job in evaluating learning outside the traditional classroom setting. We need to make more of our customized training programs credit-based, so that students and employees gain a credential for the skills and education they have obtained.

And we need to look at institutionalizing system-wide the innovative partnership that has been established between Inver Hills Community College and Metropolitan State University. Both institutions are now going to accept work experience and non-credit learning as counting toward a degree.

I would point out that all of this strategic outreach is relatively new to us. We come from a higher education culture in which, even five years ago, there was not the demand to reach out in ways that we are being asked to reach out today. We appreciate your patience and understanding as we struggle internally with some of these issues.

Fifth, we want to act on the advice from our

industry partners and create regional alliances for delivering programs.

  • The Metro Alliance is forging academic partnerships such as the urban teacher education program. They are creating career pathways and pooling their resources on marketing.
  • We are forming a similar structure in Northeastern Minnesota and other regions of the state.
This regional approach will enable us to spur the development of regional programs of excellence. We believe that, in critical high wage-industries, our state colleges and universities must aim to be world class and the only way to become world-class is to collaborate.

Working with the Department of Trade and Economic Development, we want to encourage groups of neighboring colleges and universities to establish regional programs of excellence around the state. And we would start with a handful of representative programs-with at least one in each region of the state.

Each program of excellence would require:

  • Multi-campus collaboration
  • Employer and industry participation
  • A career laddering component that would involve a bachelor's degree
  • Community and local government participation
The delivery strategy would evolve locally-managed by the people who care most passionately about economic development in their communities. And these centers of excellence could ultimately become anchors for new rural development.

6) Sixth and finally, we must develop an E-learning system. It's time we provide comprehensive 24/7 training and skill assessment to employers and to working people, in Minnesota and elsewhere, who have busy lives and may not otherwise be able to upgrade their skills. We can give Minnesota employers a competitive advantage by offering them access to electronic tools that can help their employees stay current and competitive.

Today our schools offer dozens of courses on line.

  • You can earn a practical nursing degree on-line from Northwest Tech.
  • You can earn your AS 400 certificate from Rochester
But we need a statewide commitment and strategy. We need to harness the boundless potential of the Internet quickly, before we get left behind.

Toward that end, I would like to thank you for the authorization passed last session that allows us to explore some options in developing an entrepreneurial approach to on-line learning. We have begun to assess proposals from prospective strategic partners in that regard.

To summarize our six-point plan. We will.

  • 1) Build industry partnerships
  • 2) Develop new innovative programming
  • 3) Implement a workforce tuition strategy
  • 4) Reach out strategically
  • 5) Create regional alliances to deliver programs of excellence
  • 6) Build a state-of-the-art e-learning system
We can do more to address the skills gap; but not without a bold new commitment from the state and a bold new investment from industry.

The state's commitment to higher education has slipped in recent years. In 1987, state appropriations to higher education accounted for 15.5 percent of the state's budget. Thirteen years later, higher ed accounts for 11.3 percent. In MnSCU's case, our share dropped from a high of 6.7 percent in 1989 to 4.8 percent in 2001.

We will continue to challenge the state to move ahead, beyond the talk and the study, to make decisions about Minnesota's future.

But it is unrealistic to think we can make significant progress using existing resources only. At a minimum for workforce development, we need:

  • $10-20 million per year over a several-year period to continue the success with industry partnerships
  • $10-20 million per year over the next several years for new equipment
  • A $10-20 million one-time investment to develop an e-learning system
  • $5 -10 million for incentives to create regional programs of excellence

 

We will push for investments on each of these, and for each we will leverage a matching investment from industry.

And what will that money buy?

  • Our goals are to expand customized training from serving 5,000 businesses and 240,000 employees to serving 8,000 businesses and 400,000 employees
  • We will grow from five targeted industry partnerships to 13 partnerships across industry types.
  • We will teach to national industry standards wherever possible.
  • We will work with our industry partners to attract more students into high-paying, high-skill occupations.
  • We will attract 25 percent more students from non-reciprocity states to come to Minnesota for higher education - and work.
  • We will establish a credit transfer guarantee to ensure that relevant credits from one of our institutions transfer in full to another of our institutions.
  • We will establish six regional alliances and build at least 12 regional programs of excellence.
  • We will offer comprehensive educational credit- and non-credit programming on-line, accessible any time from any place.
Our plan is an action plan that will produce results. It is a plan that fits with Governor Ventura's "Big Plan:"
  • It fosters healthy, vital communities through the regional alliances, particularly in rural areas.
  • It promotes the goal of "self sufficient people" by providing access to education and training throughout the state in industries and careers that are critical to the state's success.
  • It fosters the "service, not systems" ethic by setting measurable outcomes and focusing on students and employers.
  • It positions Minnesota as a "world competitor" by aligning education with business and industry and by attracting the best and brightest students to Minnesota.
  • And, of course, the entire plan is devoted to "developing the workforce of tomorrow" through targeted industry partnerships, customized training, strategic tuition policy and e-Learning.

This is the critical year for Minnesota. It's time to move from talk to action. We have been challenged, more than once, to compete or retreat. Will we compete? Or will we retreat? The choice is ours.


Minnesota's 31 state community and technical colleges, and universities serve more than 430,000 students across the state.