$235M Jobs Bill Would Invest in Training Mfg. Workers
A $235 million omnibus economic development bill—which, among many other things, proposes the establishment of a training program aimed at filling manufacturing positions—will go before the House Jobs and Economic Development Finance and Policy Committee on Thursday.
Work force development is a key focus of the bill, which was introduced by Democratic lawmakers. It includes a $20 million appropriation to the Minnesota Investment Fund and calls for investing more than $18 million in a job creation fund; that money would go to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), which would give government rebates and bonuses to companies that upgrade facilities and add new jobs.
It also calls for DEED to open three new trade offices in foreign markets, establish a trade policy advisory group to study the impact of trade agreements, and collaborate with the Office of Higher Education and local work force centers to publish labor market supply and demand reports, among other things.
One provision in the bill calls for about $1 million in spending to establish an education and apprenticeship program aimed at creating a skilled work force to fill current and projected openings in the manufacturing industry. If passed, it would require the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry to partner with the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system and work with employers to identify training needs.
Representative Jason Isaacson, a Democrat from Shoreview who authored that portion of the bill, said in a recent statement that the program is a departure from previous efforts because it is employer-based and focused on customized training. It would also include an “online hub” designed to match the needs of employers with job seekers.
Representatives from the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, and other entities have testified in support of that portion of the legislation, according to Isaacson’s office.
The training program was proposed shortly after the release of a DEED study, which found that employers in the engineering fields, as well as some other industries, are having a difficult time filling vacant positions. (The study found, however, that the hiring difficulties cannot be attributed solely to a lack of skilled workers; unattractive characteristics of the employer or job itself, such as wages offered, work hours, and location, were also key factors.)
Separately, a group of central Minnesota community and technical colleges recently received a $13 million federal grant to train workers for manufacturers who can't keep up with business because they lack a sufficient number of skilled employees, according to a report by the Associated Press.
Amendments to the bill will be offered Thursday before the House Jobs and Economic Development Finance and Policy Committee takes a vote.