REGIONAL — Three area companies were recently awarded funds in the ninth round of Minnesota Dual-Training Pipeline grants.

The money will allow those companies' employees to pursue formal education while getting on-the-job training to further their career goals.

The Minnesota Dual-Training Pipeline is an effort of the Department of Labor and Industry, in collaboration with the Office of Higher Education, which administers grant funds.

Worthington's Bedford Industries has been participating in the Pipeline since 2016 and has had great success with the program.

"We were unable to find qualified people to fill positions," explained Melissa DeGroot, a human resources specialist with Bedford Industries. "So we decided to grow our own."

Current Bedford Industries employees who want to learn specialized skills may participate in the Pipeline program by continuing to work and being mentored in their desired field — such as equipment maintenance or machining — while attending Minnesota West Community and Technical College for formal instruction.

"We've been really happy with the relationship we've built with Minnesota West over the years," DeGroot said. "The students get a really good education."

This time around, Bedford Industries received $12,000 in grant funding, which will allow two employees to study mechatronics in order to be hired to the equipment maintenance team.

JBS Worthington is also a longtime beneficiary of Pipeline grants. This round of funds provided JBS with $78,000 for 13 dual-trainees in the mechatronics program.

"This is a great program, and we are proud to participate," said Cameron Bruett, a JBS representative from the company's Greeley, Colorado headquarters.

New to the Pipeline program is AGCO of Jackson.

The company been using Minnesota's apprenticeship program for years in the areas of mechatronics and welding. With a Pipeline grant of $72,000, AGCO will keep mechatronics technicians on the apprenticeship track while allowing 12 welders to attend either Minnesota West or Iowa Lakes Community College as part of the Pipeline program.

This split is meant to be an experiment to see how the training methods compare, explained training specialist Gabe Adkins.

"It's a great opportunity that the state of Minnesota has offered, and it's a great opportunity for us to invest in our communities and give back, so it's a win-win," Adkins said.