Walz Administration looks to inject workforce growth in high-demand industries through grants

Published 8:52 am Wednesday, March 20, 2024

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By Clay Masters, Minnesota Public Radio News

The state announced 35 grant awards on Tuesday meant to spur workforce growth for five high-demand industries. Gov. Tim Walz went on a tour of some of Hennepin Technical College’s machinist training facilities, which won a $250,000 grant from the Department of Employment and Economic Development.

The Hennepin Technical College’s grant will help them launch a 10-week program for adults with level one autism to become machinists.

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“We really have a unique opportunity now to really focus on what that learning style is and how to best help them learn quickly,” said Alison Leintz said Hennepin Technical College’s Vice President of Advancement. “And get them high paying jobs.”

The nearly three dozen grants to schools, workforce centers and nonprofits total $20 million.

Gov. Walz appeared with leaders in the Department of Employment and Economic Development for a roundtable with some of the grant recipients.

Fairbault Schools in southern Minnesota received a $300,000 grant to help with recruiting. Superintendent Jamie Bente says 61 percent of his school district’s population are students of color, while 3 percent of licensed staff are people of color.

“For us to be able to have this focus to tap into our diversity within our community and be able to elevate those people and say, ‘We want you in these positions, we need you in this visit and these positions,’ and ‘We’re going to pay and educate you and work you into these positions is really something that is a game changer,’” Bente said.

The occupational categories for the grants were technology, the trades, caring professions, manufacturing and education.