The House Greater Minnesota Economic and Workforce Development Policy Committee heard HF2798 yesterday, a bill authored by Rep. Marion O’Neill, R-Maple Lake, that makes some changes to the dual training bill passed last session. Rep. O’Neill said the bill provides more emphasis on new hires with high school equivalent education instead of incumbent workers. She said the changes also include some more flexibility on the part of the employers.
In 2015, the Legislature created the Dual-Training Grant program to help employers and training providers deliver dual training to meet industry-developed occupational competency standards. The Office of Higher Education administers the grants, in collaboration with the Department of Labor and Industry.
Nichole Sorenson with the Office of Higher Education provided some background on the dual training, or PIPELINE program (Private Investment, Public Education, Labor and Industry Experience). She said the office awarded the first round of grants in December 2015, and are working with the grantees to get their dual training programs off the ground. Sorenson said in the first round, $490,000 in grants was awarded, about half the appropriation for the first year. She said this funding will support 125 student employees. Sorenson said the next round of grants will be awarded over the summer so student employees can start training at a postsecondary institution in the fall. She said the changes in the bill will help the Office of Higher Education get the money to employers more efficiently and will benefit the program.
Jaci Dukowitz, Director of Human Resources and Development at Ultra Machining Company (UMC), a manufacturing facility located in Monticello, testified at the hearing about the dual training, or PIPELINE program. Dukowitz said the PIPELINE project can help UMC by elevating the current competencies and skills of machinists on board, enhance longstanding youth and technical apprentice programs, and offer a career path for entry-level employees for machinists to obtain their two-year degree. Dukowitz testified that UMC chose to focus on helping employees obtain their two-year degree, and partnered with St. Cloud Technical and Community College. She said that the employees they targeted for the program were nervous about the project and they ended up with only one employee who went through the program. Dukowitz testified that there were challenges with resources, but are hopeful their employees can still benefit from the program. She said UMC is hoping to enhance manufacturing’s economic impact across Minnesota.
Jeff Thorstad and Brad Thorpe, instructors with Automation Robotics at Hennepin Technical College also testified on behalf of the bill. Thorstad testified that there will be 300 new job openings through 2023 in their field. He said they graduate between 30 and 40 students per year, and statewide, there are about 180 students graduating. Thorstad said one of the issues for employers is to be able to hire students once they graduate. He said students have multiple job offers, and companies have difficulties differentiating themselves from other companies. He said companies who hire students after high school and pay for their postsecondary education can set themselves apart. Thorstad said his program is working with 3-5 companies on this process to further educate their student employees.
Brad Thorpe testified that he started discussions on the ground level last year getting companies involved with the program. He said one of the issues they ran into was getting the employer, employee and school talking with each other. Another issue Thorpe mentioned was once companies were on board, they had to wait for approval, but that impacted the registration of students. Thorpe said going forward the timelines look better.
After much discussion, the committee approved the bill and sent it to the Job Growth and Energy Affordability Policy and Finance.