18 Dec 2017
The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) has set aside more than $160 million to fund job training and placement programs in the 2018 fiscal year — an amount exceeding 30 percent of the agency’s $485.4 million budget.
That's on top of the more than $205 million the agency spent on training and employment initiatives, which the agency either runs or funds, in its 2017 fiscal year. By comparison, DEED spent about $116 million each year on similar activities in 2015 and 2016.
The reason for the increase is no mystery: businesses across Minnesota have increasingly been in dire need of skilled workers, a gap the agency has tried to address by funding more than 70 nonprofit organizations across the state that offer employment support services and career training programs.
Today, there are more than 98,000 unfilled jobs across all business sectors in Minnesota, a number that is expected to grow substantially over the next seven years. On top of that, more and more baby boomers continue to age out of the workforce.
“We used to have lots of workers,” said Louis King, president of Summit Academy OIC, a north Minneapolis vocational school that offers career training and job placement programs. “We don’t have them anymore.”
That explains why employers across the state are struggling to find people with the right skills, a need that's especially acute in manufacturing. A recent survey conducted by Enterprise Minnesota found that nearly 70 percent of manufacturing executives said that attracting and retaining employees remains their biggest business challenge.
“It’s incredibly important that there are opportunities out there to provide training,” said state Sen. Jeremy Miller, who chairs the Senate Jobs and Economic Growth Committee, “[and] to make sure that we’re doing our part as a state to ensure our employers meet the need of the current workforce.”
To do so, DEED has secured workforce development funding from both the state and federal governments, money that will go toward expanding career pathway programs that are meant to connect unemployed and underemployed Minnesotans to career training and job placement opportunities.