As the world becomes more reliant on technology, employers across the country are looking for workers who can keep up with the continually changing landscape. With a talent pool 3 million strong, Minnesota’s highly skilled workers are growing their STEM skills through a variety of programs across the state.
As the number of STEM-related jobs continues to expand, training in STEM fields is even more important.
SciTechsperience was launched in 2012 to address the state’s STEM workforce needs. Since then, the program has helped nearly 1,700 students find paid internships in small to medium-sized companies.
The program connects STEM college students to paid internships in small Minnesota businesses. Companies benefit by finding qualified candidates and a 1:1 wage match to cover half of the intern’s pay (capped at $2,500) when they hire a student through the program.
In 2019, lawmakers invested $1.75 million in the program to build and retain the state’s STEM workforce. The funding will allow SciTechsperience to place at least 400 interns over the next two years. For every $1 invested by the state in wage matches, $2.87 was paid to interns by private companies, marking a positive return on investment for the state.
Diversity at Work
Atomic Data, a Minneapolis-based IT-as-a-service company, announced a new partnership with Summit Academy OIC called “Summit Tech” to diversify the region’s information technology workforce.
The partnership is supported by a Minnesota Job Skills Partnership grant of $191,604. Located in North Minneapolis, the academy trains low-income adults from communities of color seeking a path to long-term employment. Summit Academy’s proven track record of success provides about 800 adults each year with marketable skills in construction and health care. Summit Tech has added a third area of expertise to Summit Academy’s training program.
“Diversity is crucial to innovation. In the IT industry as a whole, workforce diversity is lacking,” said Atomic Data CEO Jim Wolford. “Our industry thrives on new ideas. Atomic Data’s partnership with Summit Academy brings a new wave of experiences and fosters growth in Minnesota’s tech community. We are looking forward to continuing our growth and hiring exceptional people through the Summit Tech Partnership.”
Summit Tech provides two sequential 20-week training programs to prepare graduates for employment as a Service Desk Technician or a Network Operations Center Technician. Most of the students who graduated from the program after its first year were offered IT jobs at Atomic Data.
Minnesota’s workforce system was recently relaunched and is now known as CareerForce. The rebranding to CareerForce represents the beginning of a recommitment to enhanced employer service throughout the state.
CareerForce is a partnership between the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), the Governor’s Workforce Development Board (GWDB) and the Minnesota Association of Workforce Boards (MAWB). Employers and career seekers alike can get help in person at 50 offices across the state, on the phone or online at CareerForceMN.com.
“Coming together under the CareerForce name will make Minnesota’s workforce system even more robust. Working better together will help us prepare and connect more workers with careers that sustain families and strengthen communities,” said Shirley Barnes, MAWB chair. “And it will help Minnesota employers find the employees they need to grow their businesses and keep Minnesota’s economy strong.”
Employers have expressed their support and appreciation for the program.
“As an employer in the northwest metro, I rely on the dedicated staff at CareerForce,” said Mike Pretzel, HR manager at LSC Communications. “In today’s tight labor market, I need their help to find the skilled employees our business needs. CareerForce helps me with no-fee online job posting, hiring events, a workforce strategy consultant to assist in planning for immediate and future workforce needs, and even customized labor market information and analysis.”
“I first utilized Minnesota’s workforce system as someone looking for work,” said Cheemika Jenkins, founder of Sincere Home Care. “Now, as an employer who is always looking for additional home health care workers, I rely on CareerForce to help connect me with the right employees.”
Another key program helping workers retool their skill sets is the Automation Training Incentive Pilot Program. The program offers grants of up to $25,000 to small businesses in the manufacturing or skilled production industry to train existing workers on new automation technology. These funds are available to existing companies in the state that are investing in new automation technologies.
Savannah King is managing editor of custom content for Conway Inc. She is an award-winning journalist and previously wrote for The Times in Gainesville, Ga. She graduated from the University of West Florida with a degree in Broadcast Journalism and lives near Atlanta.