WORTHINGTON One of the hardest things I am asked to do is to explain what my job entails at Minnesota West. As a Workforce Solutions Coordinator, very few days look alike. However, each day is spent seeking out ways to ensure that area employers have access to resources that encourage employee skill development and increase productivity of their organization. This can bridge many training areas ranging from first aid to welding to leadership development.

At the heart of every Minnesota West customized training is the desire to provide convenient and flexible training resources, assistance in the determination of an organization’s training needs, technical resources, subject matter experts, real-world hands-on experiences and flexible training options. As I often tell students, learning continues throughout a lifetime. Even if a degree has been earned, there will always be skills and professional development required to enhance employability and career pathway mobility. For Minnesota West this includes building and maintaining partnerships with local industry, workforce development entities, area school districts, expert trainers and grant opportunities.

A current grant opportunity that exists to increase employee skills is the Minnesota PIPELINE Dual Training grant. These grants were established by the Minnesota Legislature to help employees receive training that allows them to meet industry-developed occupational competency standards. Dual-training programs provide structured on-the-job training and related instruction so employees can develop the necessary occupational competencies to succeed in their chosen career. Currently, there are four industry segments with multiple occupations that are eligible to receive these grants. These industries include; advanced manufacturing, agriculture, health care services and information technology. For a list of eligible occupations and competencies and other questions, follow the link on the Department of Labor and Industry webpage. (https://www.dli.mn.gov/pipeline). Successful grant partners in this program include: JBS, AGCO, Sanford, Schwan's, Our Lady of Guadalupe Free Clinic and Bedford Industries. As a part of the grant, the employer must partner with a qualified training institution such as Minnesota West Workforce Solutions. Grant applications for the 2021-2022 school year must be submitted by April 16, 2021. We are happy to create new partnerships for learning with opportunities such as this.

Another career pathway opportunity that exists for area students is the ability to earn college credit and an industry-recognized credential through our partnership with the Southwest Minnesota Private Industry Council (SWMNPIC). Classes scheduled to begin in April and May include; welding (both daytime and evening classes available in Worthington), certified nursing assistant, commercial driver’s license (CDL), and community interpreter. Partnering with these classes allows eligible students to attend the classes for no out-of-pocket costs while helping area employers meet their workforce needs. Typically, these classes also offer extra supports for students that may have barriers through another partnership with Adult Basic Education. Anybody interested in pursuing these opportunities needs to connect with Sandy Demuth at sdemuth@swmnpic.org to fill out an application to see if they are eligible for the Career Pathway scholarship dollars. For summer classes these applications need to be returned to SWMNPIC by April 15, 2021.

A third training partnership is available through Minnesota Job Skill Partnership (MJSP) grants. To be eligible for these funds, Minnesota participating businesses must partner with an accredited Minnesota educational institution. Grants of up to $400,000 are awarded to the educational institution to develop and deliver custom training specific to business needs. A cash or in-kind contribution from the participating business must match the grant funds on at least a one-to-one basis. Typically, the training period for these grants lasts from 1 to 4 years. The next round of these grant applications is due on May 15, 2021.

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Minnesota West and its Workplace Solutions department strives to help local employers develop talent to meet the needs of their business/industry. From online just-in-time offerings to customized on-the-job trainings, we strive to help employees reach their potential and to assist employers in increasing capacity and productivity. To find out more details about above opportunities, other programs and trainings available at Minnesota West, follow us on Facebook at Minnesota West Customized Training or contact Roxanne Hayenga at roxanne.hayenga@mnwest.edu or 372-3468.