Senator Amy Klobuchar’s team discusses workforce development with Bemidji leaders – Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI — Members of U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar’s team met with community and education leaders at Northwest Technical College on Wednesday to detail legislative efforts regarding workforce development.

Although she was unable to join in person, in a pre-recorded video, Klobuchar explained current legislation that addresses labor shortages and learning disparities for business careers across the state. .

“There are more than 205,000 vacancies in Minnesota, a record in decades,” Klobuchar said. “And in a 2021 State of Manufacturing report, nine out of 10 manufacturers said it was difficult to find workers with the right skills and experience.”

A bipartisan apprenticeship bill as part of a competition and manufacturing package recently passed the House and won funding to expand access to manufacturing training across the state.

Other bills in the current legislative session will seek to increase women’s participation in apprenticeships for male-dominated business careers, increase job training opportunities and allow workers to earn college credit for apprenticeships. completed.

Klobuchar shared a 2019 study from the Midwest Economic Policy Institute that showed that every dollar spent on apprenticeship programs in Minnesota increases the state’s gross domestic product by $21.

“I know these types of investments are going to make all the difference to our economy, our businesses and our workers,” Klobuchar added.

Rommel Lee, Director of Outreach for U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, welcomes participants to a roundtable discussion on workforce development Wednesday, March 30, 2022 at the NTC.

Annalize Braught / Bemidji Pioneer

In addressing workforce development, Klobuchar Outreach Director Rommel Lee highlighted the multiple levels of issues to consider when looking to fill vacancies with skilled workers.

“When we talk about workforce development, skills training is an important part of it,” Lee said. “But it’s a multi-faceted issue where we have a holistic approach that also takes into account childcare, housing and immigration.”

Detailing the NTC’s early childhood education program, President Faith Hensrud discussed challenges with wages and affordability of child care.

“It’s hard to attract students to the profession when wages are so low, and it’s also hard for parents to pay high childcare rates,” Hensrud said. “So it’s that vicious circle that’s extremely difficult.”

Referring to her most recent granddaughter, Hensrud said it would be cheaper to send her to college than to send her to daycare in the Twin Cities.

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Faith Hensrud, president of Bemidji State and Northwest Technical College, speaks during a workforce development discussion with members of U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar’s team on Wednesday, 30 March 2022 at the NTC.

Annalize Braught / Bemidji Pioneer

Klobuchar detailed the non-partisan Child Care Workforce and Facilities Act which aims to educate and retain child care workers as well as expand child care facilities in rural areas.

Childcare and Education is the largest program of Bemidji Career Academies, which creates opportunities for students and business partners to collaborate and prepare future generations of employees.

“(Child care and education students) partner with the Boys and Girls Club to work with teachers and students after school. They love working with children,” said Bemidji Career Academies Executive Director Brian Stefanich. “I know a lot of these kids are going to be teachers.”

The Bemidji Career Academies offer 15 different pathways for career exploration, including business, automotive technology, construction, and healthcare careers.

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Bemidji Career Academies Executive Director Brian Stefanich speaks during a workforce development discussion with members of U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar’s team, Wednesday, March 30, 2022, at the NTC.

Annalize Braught / Bemidji Pioneer

Hensrud hopes to expand the pool of nursing graduate applicants in the region, adding “at this time, we cannot produce enough nursing graduates here at NTC and BSU to meet the needs in Bemidji alone.”

She cited that BSU limits enrollment in nursing courses to 60 students not only because of limits on equipment and clinical rotations, but also staffing issues.

“We have four vacancies in our nursing department and we don’t know if we’ll be able to get a single one,” added Vice President of Academic Affairs Allen Bedford. “Compensation is an issue, location can be an issue and the job requirements are so high.”

Greater Bemidji General Manager Dave Hengel spoke of a shortage of 200 truck drivers in the Bemidji area and a lack of potential employees with commercial driving licenses.

“That’s true across all industries in all sectors of our economy in northern Minnesota,” Hengel said. “Currently, there are just over 1,000 available jobs posted in Bemidji. To add to that, we have approximately 1,000 unemployed people in Beltrami County. There is a disconnect.

Hengel pointed out that the current worker shortages have been predicted for years and are not exclusively a pandemic issue.

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Sarah Behrens, coordinator of schools and industry partnerships at Northwest Technical College, speaks during a workforce development discussion with members of U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar’s team on Wednesday, March 30 2022 at NTC.

Annalize Braught / Bemidji Pioneer

Hensrud and Sarah Behrens, Schools and Industry Partnerships Coordinator at NTC, seek to address mental health needs and training across the region, particularly for students and employees who may have been impacted by the pandemic.

“All fourth-year RN students at NTC are enrolled in mental health first aid,” Behrens said. “Having the right resources is important when someone is struggling with a mental health issue, and there are a lot of positive things to take from mental health training. »

With feedback gathered, the Klobuchar team looks to the future to advocate for increased workforce development for Bemidji and the surrounding region.

“There are pockets of untapped potential when it comes to our workforce,” Lee said. “Every 30 miles we see signs saying ‘Welder Wanted’ or ‘Mechanic Needed,’ so building up our workforce is clearly a statewide need.”

Continuing his efforts to work across the aisle, Klobuchar emphasized that workforce development is a common goal that everyone can work toward.

“We all share the same goal of making sure workers have the skills they need to succeed,” Klobuchar said. “This will help our state’s businesses succeed and, in turn, help our state succeed.”

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BSU Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Allen Bedford listens to a pre-recorded video of U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar explaining current labor shortages legislation during a panel discussion Wednesday, March 30, 2022 at the NTC.

Annalize Braught / Bemidji Pioneer

Michael A. Bynum