Tackling the skills gap

The Center’s project participates in home education conference and will soon release new videos.

American Experiment’s “Great Jobs Without a Four-Year Degree” project participated in a home education conference attended by over 700 parents from May 31 to June 1. The annual Minnesota Catholic Home Education Conference and Curriculum Fair was held at the University of St. Thomas and is one of the largest Catholic homeschooling conferences in the country. Attendees came from all across Minnesota and from out-of-state to learn about homeschooling curricula and hear presentations on various education-related topics.

The Great Jobs project facilitated a panel discussion featuring Minnesotans who chose career paths that do not require the traditional four-year degree route, which the Center was asked to focus on, as it is a topic of great interest to home education parents.

Moderated by the Center’s Catrin (Thorman) Wigfall, the discussion focused on debunking the myths and stereotypes associated with non-traditional careers and exploring how parents can support their children interested in jobs that don’t require a four-year degree. Panelists also shared why they chose the career path they did and how they have found the work meaningful and important.

Audience Q&A was sprinkled throughout the discussion to engage parents and give them the opportunity to ask pressing questions they had on the topic. Parents were most interested in learning about the variety of alternative education paths the panelists took (two-year degrees, certificates, etc.) and how the panelists overcame the stigmas associated with jobs requiring technical skills.

Panelists included the Center’s Mitch Pearlstein, Amanda Phillips, a carpenter instructor at the St. Paul Carpenter’s Training Center, Dan McGee, a direct sales engineer for Manitowoc Tool and Manufacturing, and Robert McLain, an HVAC service technician.

The panel discussion was well received by attendees and concluded with parents asking the Center to come back and share more on the great jobs available to young Minnesotans interested in working with both their hands and their minds.


 The “Great Jobs” effort is about to release a new round of short videos that highlight Minnesotans who chose careers that don’t require the traditional four-year degree route. The new round of videos highlight the energy, health care, IT, and agriculture industries and capture the positive experiences of underrepresented demographics in these fields.

Many young people and their parents have deeply engrained misconceptions about these alternative occupations: They are “dark, dirty and dangerous”; they are “for dummies”; they are “financial dead-ends.” These negative stereotypes have proven extremely difficult to change through traditional means, which is why the Great Jobs project has utilized the digital revolution to dispel such stigmas before viewers’ eyes. The Minnesotans featured in the videos are articulate, likable and smart. The venues they work in are cutting edge and exciting. These are lucrative jobs that can establish financial independence at a young age, and above all, help people avoid crippling student debt.

The Great Jobs videos and social media initiative is key to modernizing and humanizing great jobs in the public’s mind and helping young people see these jobs as exciting prospects for their own futures. Sign up for the Great Jobs newsletter at GreatJobsMN.com to receive updates on the videos and more information on the empowering career opportunities young people have to choose from.