As you may know, the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) system is in the middle of a large workforce-development program. The goal is to revamp curricula to get Minnesota employers the workers they need.
Last year, it teamed up with the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce as well as state Department of Employment and Economic Development to hold a series of employer listening sessions around the state.
It has trotted out a multimillion-dollar program for beefed up internships, equipment purchases and faculty development — and so far has won some Senate funding for it. (See p.7 onward.)
But questions still arise about what kind of role business should play. At least one college president has said industry needs to play a larger role. And some analysts and critics question whether industry’s complaint of a “jobs-skills mismatch” in the U.S. actually exists — or whether employers are simply being too picky (and too stingy) in thier search for employees.
Last week, MnSCU trustee Cheryl Dickson added her own critical view when she told the board at a regular meeting:
“Given the number of questions around about employers saying, ‘We can’t get people to do this,’ and Congressmen saying, ‘For-profits are so nimble,’ I wonder if we couldn’t persuade our corporate partners that they have more of a responsibility than just complaining in the newspapers and accepting our graduates. I think we look bad — higher education looks bad — because we keep reading these complaints in the newspapers. You know — ‘We can’t find welders,’ and then it’s, ‘We can’t find precision welders,’ and then it’s, ‘We can’t find blue-eyed, left-handed welders,’ or something. But it’s kind of almost like a whack a mole game.
“So I wonder if we couldn’t enlist our corporate friends around the state to work with us to help to get students into that pipeline. And it seems to me that a public relations campaign of some kind — that higher ed together (with) corporate Minnesota could run — that we could alert people that, ‘If you would only do this (for your education), there would be a good job waiting for you.’ Because somehow students are not getting that message, and we’re all falling down if that doesn’t happen. Because it appears to me that this system is trying really hard.”