Senate higher-ed chief calls for more apprenticeships

The Senate higher-education chairwoman wants the state to help establish apprenticeships in three key industries.

During her recent tour of Minnesota state campuses, Minnetonka DFLer Terri Bonoff said, many students expressed anxiety over whether they’d find a job after they graduate.

“In addition,” she said, “I hear from the businesses in the area that there’s a skills gap. So I’m thinking, ‘OK, what’s missing here?”

Bonoff wants to create apprenticeships in advanced manufacturing, health care services and information technology — fields she says face high growth or suffer from worker shortages.

As a first step, her proposed legislation would have the state establish competency standards for future apprentices in those fields.

She said that unlike countries such as Germany, the U.S. has relatively few highly structured apprenticeships outside of construction trades.

“That’s why there’s a skills gap,” she said. “We don’t say that if you want to pursue a career in advanced manufacturing, before you graduate you need to accomplish this, this and this.”

The proposal recommends that state officials work with industry leaders on the skills apprentices would learn.

They would also consider how businesses and colleges provide the training.