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MnSCU chancellor: We need to plan for jobs of the future

WILLMAR — In the coming years, three-quarters of available jobs in the state will require some sort of post-secondary education.

It will be a challenge to develop educational programs that will prepare Minnesotans for the jobs that will be available in the future, said Steven Rosenstone, chancellor of Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system. Rosenstone was in Willmar earlier this week to meet with members of the Willmar Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce.

He also stopped at the Tribune offices.

“We can’t afford to leave anybody behind,” Rosenstone said, and there isn’t a community in the state that isn’t concerned about where it will find its workforce of the future.

MnSCU is in a good position to help prepare the future workforce on its campuses in 47 communities around the state. That includes Ridgewater College, based in Willmar. Six of 10 undergraduate college students in the state attend MnSCU schools, he said.

“Not all of higher ed can turn on a dime and do what our customized training programs do,” he said.

MnSCU includes four-year universities and two-year community colleges. Two-year schools, such as Ridgewater College, offer customized training programs that can develop training for a particular business or for a specific type of job.

To prepare for the future, MnSCU is working with other state agencies and the state’s business and industry associations to begin to develop a plan.

“We need to be thinking together about what our needs will be down the road,” he added.

In the coming years, hundreds of thousands of people in the baby-boom generation will retire, making the challenge of developing a workforce for the future even tougher. To fill those open jobs, the state will need to keep its young people here and also attract new Minnesotans, he said.

“We can’t afford to leave anybody behind,” he said, and it’s important to reach students in high school to help them choose the classes that will prepare them for post-secondary education and jobs.

“We’re trying to get more students headed to post-secondary education,” Rosenstone said. “We’re trying to get businesses to go in and tell kids what education they need.”

A bachelor’s degree isn’t needed for all jobs, but some type of education beyond high school will be important for the most people in the future. The Legislature’s World’s Best Workforce initiative should help prepare young people for high school graduation and education after college, Rosenstone said. All of those efforts are part of solving the puzzle of Minnesota’s future economy, he said.

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

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