Anoka Technical College hosts legislators, business partners to address workforce challenges

Anoka Technical College welcomed legislators and business partners to campus in early October to discuss technical trades and workforce concerns in the state of Minnesota. The Machine Trades faculty hosted a tour, as college employees, legislators, local businesses and K-12 partners met at the college to discuss the successes and initiatives shaping the future of a skilled Minnesota workforce.

Anoka Technical College is partnering with the legislature, business and industry to ensure that Minnesota has the talent it needs to sustain economic vitality. The Machine Trades faculty recently continued its commitment to providing industry-current equipment for students to train with by adding a five-axis mill, funded through a community effort that included individual and business donations, as well as local and state funding.

“The leadership of Anoka-Hennepin’s Secondary Technical Education Program (STEP) high school and Anoka Technical College demonstrate a willingness to take risks to align with what our industry needs,” said Steve Swain, President of CNH Machine of Anoka. “The workforce trained and provided by these education partnerships really help our younger workers understand how great these opportunities really are.”

The college partners with local high schools, including the STEP high school, to provide pathways for students looking to begin gaining employable skills before graduation.

“We have been able to acquire additional funding and develop advisory boards to build and maintain a pipeline for younger students, who are beginning to take manufacturing courses in 9th and 10th grade,” said Jessica Lipa, Director of the STEP high school. “By 12th grade these students are ready for internships and apprenticeships. We are now seeing 8th graders touring our college campuses and elementary students as young as 5th grade getting exposed to manufacturing-related software and are beginning to develop an interest in technical careers.”

Anoka Technical College President Kent Hanson reminded legislators of the funding struggle that educators technical colleges face at a time when most states continue to see an ever decreasing budget for education. “My biggest concern is assuring that we continue to deliver state-of-the-art programming,” said Hanson, “Funding is tough. We are fortunate to have such great partners in our community who are advocates for our programs and are willing to help with closing funding gaps. Our next initiative is to provide our students with a robotic welding lab to meet industry growth.”

The college will work to leverage equipment and pursue workforce development funding to meet the $750,000 need to launch the program. “We want to see funding go to the classroom,” said Nick Zerwas, Minnesota Representative. “The Minnesota State system has done an impressive job of holding administrative costs to a minimum, while pursuing funding sources for programs that fulfill a state need and fill gaps that serve business and industry.”

The students are seeing the difference the Anoka Tech Machine Trades program is making in the community. Josh Hultberg, an alumnus, part-time faculty member and current employee at Rotary Systems, Inc. in Ramsey, Minn., said, “The Machine Trades program gave me the tools I needed to be successful.” Haley Jansen, an alumna who works with Cummins Power Generation in Fridley concurred, “It’s changed my life. I was able to get hired right away.”

Most of the current faculty in the Machine Trades program are themselves graduates of the program, and continue to work within the industry. “Being able to come back, I can hand down skills that I learned in this program,” said Matt Rogers, Machine Trades faculty member. “We continue that high-quality tradition with our students.”

Anoka Tech and its partners are working to remove the stigma that a technical college degree is not a viable secondary education option when compared to a liberal arts education. “Technical degrees are college degrees, and we need to change those conversations in American kitchens and living rooms,” said Swain.

“As I reflect on these conversations, this much is clear: in communities across the state, Minnesota State plays a critical role in solving the workforce shortage because our colleges and universities are engaged in two critical strategies: leveraging the strength that exists in the system and fostering strong partnerships with the K-12 sector, business and industry,” said Devinder Malhotra, Minnesota State Chancellor.

“Collaborative campus and regional planning enhances access to educational opportunities and reduces the costs to students and taxpayers. By partnering on these initiatives, each Minnesota State college or university provides a door through which business and industry can access the strengths of all 37 colleges and universities across Minnesota.”

The Machine Trades faculty hosted a legislative tour on Oct. 4, as college employees, legislators, local businesses and K-12 partners met at the college to discuss the successes and initiatives shaping the future of a skilled Minnesota workforce.

The Machine Trades faculty hosted a legislative tour on Oct. 4, as college employees, legislators, local businesses and K-12 partners met at the college to discuss the successes and initiatives shaping the future of a skilled Minnesota workforce.

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