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West Virginia leads the way in transforming high school CTE to boost the state’s economy

West Virginia has struggled for years with a declining economy, and an increasingly discouraged and disengaged high school population. Now the state is working to change that with an innovative new approach to Career and Technical Education, and the pay-off is inspiring, according to the New York Times: Long one of the poorest states, [West Virginia] is leading the way in turning vocational education from a Plan B for underachieving students into what policy makers hope will be a fuel source for the state’s economic revival. Simulated workplaces, overseen by teachers newly trained in important state industries like health, coal and even...

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Technical education can save parents from drowning in college debt

The move to broaden young people’s exposure to career paths beyond a four-year college degree just got a boost from the Wall Street Journal. The Journal reports that the default rate in the federal government’s Parents Plus program now exceeds that on U.S. mortgages at the peak of the housing crisis. According to the article, headlined “Parents Are Drowning in College Loan Debt,” Millions of U.S. parents have taken out loans from the government to help their children pay for college. Now a crushing bill is coming due. Hundreds of thousands have tumbled into delinquency and default. In the process, many have delayed...

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CMMA is model for state’s manufacturers

When Les Engel and a handful of other St. Cloud-area manufacturers got together one morning in 2008 to strategize about their “talent pipeline” problem, they had no idea how many area businesses would show up. “We were expecting 25 people,” says Engel, CEO of Engel Metallurgical in St. Cloud. “We got 105.” That day, the Central Minnesota Manufacturing Association (CMMA) was born. “We came together because we wanted to have a voice—in the community, in the schools, in St. Paul—to influence things we believe need to be changed,” Engel explains. CMMA’s motto says it all: “Today, growth and innovation can rarely be...

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Great Work by an Intern on Her Summer Vacation

I had an exceptional intern this summer, Tori Roloff, who worked with me on two projects: American Experiment’s multi-year initiative, “Great Jobs Without a Four-Year Degree”; and a related book I’m writing, tentatively titled Educational Roads Less Taken: How America’s Fixation on Four-Year Degrees Limits Both Careers and Economic Growth.  Tori is a sophomore at the University of Virginia and an alumnus of Minnehaha Academy in Minneapolis.  Rather than give her simple assignments such as looking up this or counting that, I asked her to research several complex issues, six in all, and then write a short essay about each...

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Revolutionary new tool helps employers find skilled workers

Finding workers for hard-to-fill skilled jobs is one of the toughest challenges that Minnesota’s small- to medium-sized employers face. Fortunately, a revolutionary new on-line search tool—the RealTime Talent Exchange—now gives them the kind of reach and sophistication they can otherwise only dream of. For these employers, the Exchange is like having their own top-dollar, Fortune 500-style human resources department. And it’s remarkably affordable: $39 for regular job postings and $19 for internships. RealTime Talent, which operates the Exchange, is a public-private collaboration formed in 2015 out of work started by the business advisory group Itasca Project. RealTime Talent’s goal is to increase...

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Tapani Sisters of Wyoming Machine show the way on closing the skills gap

Up in Stacy, Minnesota, the Tapani sisters—Lori and Traci—are blazing a trail in workforce development. The two are the co-owners and co-presidents of Wyoming Machine. This spring, the Tapanis won the National Association of Workforce Boards’ (NAWB) prestigious business leadership award in Washington, D.C., for their work in developing the workforce and economy of Washington County and other Minnesota communities. They were in remarkable company. The other company so honored was national behemoth Lockheed Martin. The award honored the Tapanis for their “ardent commitment” to training and enhancing workforce skills in manufacturing. According to the Star Tribune, In nominating the sisters, Washington County workforce...

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Businesses seeking older skilled workers to fill gap

The urgent need for skilled workers is one of the greatest challenges that businesses in fields like manufacturing, construction and energy face. One new pool they are increasingly tapping is older workers—headed for retirement—in their own shops. These individuals’ talent and deep institutional knowledge may be the key to a company’s continued profitability. Today, 19 percent of manufacturing employers are seeking to attract older employees to some sort of phased retirement—up from 6 percent just four years ago, according to the Society for Human Resources Management. But how to do this, especially in fields with physical demands that might challenge older workers? The...

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“I Come to Mostly Praise Higher Education, Not Bury It”

As a young guy, I had planned on making my life in higher education – or the “academy” as I liked to say – not that things worked out back then.  Nearly four decades later I can’t deny I was disappointed and often angry when things didn’t mesh.  But what I can say is that I am exceedingly pleased my career has worked out the way it has, as the sense of satisfaction I’ve derived from conceiving and then leading Center of the American Experiment for a long time has been grander, I’m confident, than any fulfillment I could have...

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Kathy Kersten’s Better Bloggerville Welcome

Whenever I have an op-ed published in the Star Tribune I debate with myself whether I should read comments about the piece on the Strib’s blog afterwards.  Despite knowing, without a sliver of doubt, that some number of readers will suggest I’m a rotten human being in the employ of immorally rich capitalists and nasty plutocrats, I’m invariably curious enough to take a look, where the pattern routinely goes something like this: Blogger No. 1: “Pearlstein’s article is a piece of trash.” Blogger No. 2: “No, it’s not.  If there’s any trash around here, it’s all your dumb liberal ideas.” After which I’m...

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