Minnesota needs a skilled workforce, and at the pace we are graduating and retraining our workers, Minnesota will not meet this demand. By 2020, Minnesota is projected to have a shortage of 100,000 workers according to Lt. Gov. Tina Smith. This month the Minnesota Job Skills Partnership (MJSP) awarded $2.2 million in worker retention grants to retrain workers at 16 manufacturing and health care companies in the skills they need to meet the skills gap.* These workers will take classes at Minnesota’s technical colleges across the state. While it is crucial to retain and retrain the workers we have, these grants will not close the skills gap. It is time to renew our promise and invest in Minnesota’s Community & Technical Colleges in order to make college affordable for every Minnesotan.
Community and technical colleges used to be a ladder to the middle class for students across the state, but this dream is being pushed out of reach. Minnesota’s community and technical college students are paying the third highest tuition and fees in the country for their degree. With the barrier of rising tuition, skyrocketing textbook costs, and the challenges of working and paying for school many students cannot afford to attend college. As a result, many students do not apply and Minnesota loses out on skilled workers. If we do not renew our promise and make community and technical college affordable we will not meet the workforce demands of the future.
One way to renew that promise is to invest in our community and technical colleges and fund debt free community college grants for students that put in the effort to attain their degree. If students put in the time and effort, invest in their education, and fill out their FAFSA, they should be able to graduate from a community and technical college in Minnesota debt free. If we do not make this investment Minnesota is in danger of losing jobs. It is time to get serious about investing in our students.