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As others see it: Got the people, but not the skills

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A host of remedies were suggested at the recent Governor's Jobs Summit for the lag in job growth that uncharacteristically afflicted Minnesota in the past decade. Minnesota should reduce business taxes, improve government efficiency, invest in energy conservation, find ways to stimulate venture capital investments in small businesses, do a better job of "branding" the state's entrepreneurial advantages and a lot more, speakers said.

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But the day's de facto theme was set when moderator Kathy Tunheim asked the four plenary-session panelists what they consider the biggest risk facing Minnesota. "It's that our workforce won't be as vital as it has been," former Medtronic Chairman Bill George said, without hesitation. The other panelists quickly agreed. ...

The business and civic leaders who responded to Gov. Mark Dayton's summit call showed that they get it: A highly educated, appropriately skilled workforce is key to reinvigorating job creation.

More than most states, Minnesota has an education-dependent economy. By 2018, according to the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce, 70 percent of our jobs will require postsecondary training. By comparison, 40 percent of Minnesotans of working age today have a postsecondary credential.

Those statistics explain an increasingly apparent "skills gap" in Minnesota. Despite the state's 6.9 percent unemployment rate, high-skills jobs are going begging. ...

A skills gap is not only prolonging joblessness: It's eroding Minnesota's reputation as the place where employers find the people who can fill their jobs. Closing the skills gap should be central to a new, bipartisan Minnesota prosperity strategy.

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