By Joyce Helens, SCTCC President
How do you increase the odds that Minnesota will be poised to retain and attract employers, be competitive for good jobs, and create and maintain a high quality of life in uncertain economic times?
The Brookings Institution, a nonprofit public policy organization, stated in its State and Metropolitan Innovation research series that a solution to achieve economic recovery and long-term prosperity was states must produce many more skilled workers with post-secondary credentials, not merely short-term training after high school.
This research pointed out that our technical and community colleges were not only critical to people seeking higher skills, but to employers looking for qualified workers. Failure to align community college goals with economic development efforts to address states’ human capital challenges runs the risk of losing out in the competition for good jobs and sustainable development. Researchers recommended states articulate a clear vision for the alignment of workforce development, post-secondary education and economic development at the regional level, and they regularly publicize progress.
The good news is St. Cloud Technical & Community College has leadership roles in each of these areas.
For more than 64 years, SCTCC has contributed to the skilled workforce in Central Minnesota, providing quality post-secondary education and training. What most may not know is that SCTCC is very involved in the economic development of the region as well.
What is economic development? Sustained, concerted effort and actions of policymakers and communities to promote the standard of living and economic health of a specific area. That effort was put into high gear with the creation of the Greater St. Cloud Economic Development Corp. last year, and SCTCC is a founding and active member.
SCTCC already is aligned with key industry sectors offering successful specific programs to build Minnesota’s workforce through highly specialized technical programs, industry training, technical consulting and business development. Collaborating with our partner, the Stearns Benton Employment & Training Council, we align our training to workforce trends and needs.
It is no surprise then, given the role SCTCC plays in economic development, that we were at the table last year when Geringhoff, the German farm implement company that recently announced plans to open its first North American manufacturing plant in St. Cloud, was in its site selection process. Geringhoff looked at nine regions in North America. When they looked in our region, SCTCC was there to showcase the quality of the local workforce.
Joseph Jandrisch, with Geringhoff North America, told me that after he and the Geringhoff group toured SCTCC, we “blew them away!”
Our quality curriculum and ability to be flexible led to discussions where we will send welding and machining faculty to the Geringhoff facility in Germany for cross-training and building of curriculum. This is a historic occasion where SCTCC is proud to be part of the dynamic team in the greater St. Cloud area.
This collective effort with the state, Minnesota State institutions and the GSDC highlights the agenda that Brookings was recommending. We now have a clear vision for the alignment of workforce development, post-secondary education and economic development at the regional level, and it is becoming apparent and successful. It was not developed overnight, but through focused and consistent work, particularly this past year through the GSDC, as we created the blueprint for success!
Geringhoff’s decision to build here is just the beginning of that success.