Sen. Franken, Minnesota business owner discuss workforce training

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NEWS RELEASE — Washington, D.C. — U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Erick Ajax, the vice president and co-owner of E.J. Ajax and Sons, a Minneapolis family-owned company for three generations providing innovative metal forming solutions, today (Thursday, July 11) held a conference call to discuss Sen. Franken’s new legislation to help close the “skills gap” that has left jobs unfilled because businesses cannot find workers with the right skills.

Sen. Franken’s bill would foster partnerships between community and technical colleges and businesses to train students to fill high-demand jobs in Minnesota and across the country. To download an audio portion of the conference call, click here.

Sen. Franken’s Community College to Career Fund Act will create partnerships between two-year colleges and businesses to train two million Americans for jobs in high-demand industries, such as health care, advanced manufacturing, clean energy, and information technology.

“Over the last few years as I’ve traveled around Minnesota, I have continually heard from business owners that they are dealing with something called the skills gap…about a third of manufactures in our state say that they can’t fill jobs that they have waiting to be filled because they can’t find workers with the skills that they need, and that it’s affecting their bottom line,” Sen. Franken said on the call. “So I’ve introduced a bill that would help address this. It’s based on a number of successful partnerships I’ve seen between businesses and community and technical colleges in Minnesota.”

“My company invests 5.5 percent of our payroll in internships, apprenticeships, education, and professional development. I can say the lion share of that is done with our MNSCU public education system,” Erick Ajax said on the call. “Our two-year community and technical colleges have been wonderful partners, and I can say everything we have been doing over the last decade at E.J. Ajax is almost exactly what you are suggesting in your bill. From a firsthand employer standpoint, it really works.”

The Community College to Career Fund Act will create a competitive grant program that will fund partnerships between businesses and two-year colleges to address the skills gap.

These partnerships will focus on valuable job training-related efforts, such as registered apprenticeships, on-the-job training opportunities, and paid internships for low-income students that allow them simultaneously to earn credit for work-based learning in a high-skill field.

The Fund will encourage businesses to locate and invest in the U.S. because the training available will help provide a skilled workforce. And by training local workers in the skills businesses need it will also help communities, especially rural communities, keep local talent in their community. U.S. Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) introduced the legislation in the House last month

In Minnesota, the legislation is supported by Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, Dunwoody College of Technology, Hennepin Technical College, South Central College, the Minnesota Precision Manufacturing Association, and the Central Minnesota Manufacturing Association. Nationally, the legislation is supported by the National Skills Coalition, the American Association of Community Colleges, the Association of Community Colleges Trustees, and the Center for Law & Social Policy (CLASP).


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