Mobile equipment, technology upgrades at the colleges, and dedicated staff will support access to workforce training in skills needed by the region’s business and industry

The 2022 federal omnibus bill, which passed the House on March 9 and the Senate on March 10, includes $2,060,000 to support the "Advance Greater Minnesota" community investment project at two colleges in Southern Minnesota. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith proposed funding for Advance Greater Minnesota as well as other community projects through the “Congressionally Directed Spending” process. The omnibus bill is now headed to President Biden for signature into law.

South Central College (SCC) and Minnesota State College Southeast (MSC Southeast) will use the funds to improve pathways in advanced manufacturing careers. Advance Greater Minnesota will help businesses grow their own workforce from within, attract new employees and control the costs associated with training a highly skilled workforce in rural locations.

“Manufacturing is a critical industry in Southern Minnesota and one that produces rewarding, well-paying jobs for trained individuals. At our community and technical colleges this education is available in a relatively short period of time, resulting in work-ready individuals who are able to step in and immediately meet the needs of employers,” said Dr. Annette Parker, President of South Central College. “We are grateful to our local leaders who introduced and promoted this important initiative resulting in significant congressional funding for our region.” 

Today’s modern industries rely more and more on robotics and other automated tasks, but this does not replace the need for humans in the workplace. Rather, it means that more training in new technologies is required. The high-tech manufacturing environment requires individuals who know how to install and maintain a wide variety of computer-controlled systems, machinery and equipment.

In Greater Minnesota and rural economies, this requirement comes at a high price when there are labor shortages and training may not be available on-site. Advance Greater Minnesota will make it possible for the colleges to invest in mobile equipment that can bring training directly to employer locations.

As part of Advance Greater Minnesota SCC and MSC Southeast will also further equip their on-campus advanced manufacturing technology labs. These upgrades will make it possible to offer training through accelerated and condensed modules that ensure early attainment of credentials.

The investment in mobile and on-campus equipment will be supported by an equally important investment in faculty, curriculum development and program navigators to work with businesses and individuals. Learning can be delivered in a combination of on-site, online and on-campus modes, allowing the colleges to meet the needs of both employers and workers.

“We are grateful for the confidence Congress has shown our colleges, by entrusting us to expand access and availability to high-quality advanced manufacturing education and training,” said Dr. Marsha Danielson, President of Minnesota State College Southeast. “This investment will help regional manufacturers to grow their workforce from within and attract new employees that can contribute immediately through accelerated skill attainment.”