Weather Forecast


Former legislator, Kelliher, touts Willmar's place at forefront of jobs movement

Margaret Anderson Kelliher, president and CEO of the Minnesota High Tech Association, participates in a tour Tuesday of the MinnWest Technology campus in Willmar. The former Democratic lawmaker was in Willmar to discuss the changing education needs of Minnesota workers. Also pictured is James Sieben, president of the campus. Tribune photos by TJ Jerke

With technology a vital role in today's society, more jobs are requiring post-secondary education. Or as Margaret Anderson Kelliher put it, "a disruption in society has occurred and technology and innovation have taken off."

Kelliher, president and CEO of the Minnesota High Tech Association, spoke Tuesday to the Willmar Kiwanis Club about jobs of the future. The Minnesota High Tech Association focuses on promoting the growth, sustainability and global competitiveness of Minnesota's technology-based ec-onomy.

"Young people need to understand there is a future for them in Minnesota," she said. "Science, technology, engineering and math are what the future looks like, and it is very cool."

The former DFL gubernatorial candidate and speaker of the Minnesota House emphasized Tuesday how only half of the country's work force in 1968 had a high school diploma, while today, technology jobs are replacing manufacturing jobs and requiring the work force to have a higher education.

"We will need people who are high skilled and high knowledged to take those jobs," Kelliher said.

"A high school diploma is not going to cut it for the jobs now."

Kelliher cited a study conducted by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce which found that by 2018, 70 percent of Minnesota jobs will require higher education.

To highlight what Minnesota is doing to combat the need for a more highly educated work force, Kelliher spoke about her association's Science, Technology, Engineering and Math initiative which connects professionals and educators and puts them "on the ground trying to inspire students in what they are doing," she said.

A prime example of how Minnesota is advancing in employment opportunities in the science and technology fields is the MinnWest Technology Campus in Willmar.

Following her presentation to the Kiwanis Club, Kelliher toured the campus to see first-hand what the 23 businesses, with 288 employees, are doing.

"We're interested in where innovation and the cutting edge of technology is happening in the state," she said.

After walking through the NovaTech Engineering and Epitopix buildings, Kelliher said, "I would hold this up against a lot of things happening across the state."

NovaTech Engineering, a partner in the development of the MinnWest Technology Campus, designs, manufactures and services turkey, chicken and duck hatcheries in 33 countries.

Epitopix, with 17 patents displayed on one of their walls, creates and manufactures animal vaccines.

Both businesses have increased the number of employees since they moved onto the campus in 2006.

"This is impressive," Kelliher said. "We want to make sure people are aware of what's happening at Minnwest in the state and the region."