New Ulm Journal : Mfg Jobs Tied To Education (Pell Grants ?)

The New Ulm Journal editorialized the need to back Manufacturers by investing in the education of tomorrow’s work force (since NUJ OpEd goes quickly goes offline, the editorial is listed at the end of this commentary.)

It’s not surprising that the hardworking people of New Ulm would advocate for investing in the future … but with the Republican-managed House of Representatives led by John Kline (R-MN-02), the Chairman of the Education and Workforce Committee, advocating cutting Pell Grants, the future of domestic manufacturing is at a crossroad.

New Ulm employers would most likely draw from South Central Technical College Center for Business and Industry (CBI) in North Mankato or Fairmont. The CBI is a great program having partnered with a number of businesses to train workers … serving the communities, the business and the workers. Heck, South Central College has been successfully training and certifying welders for the past 35 years … plus there is training available for CNC machines, steam engineering, etc.

It goes without saying that paying for college is a drain on all involved — and as USA Today reported :
Students are borrowing twice what they did a decade ago after adjusting for inflation. Total outstanding debt has doubled in the past five years — a sharp contrast to consumers reducing what’s owed on home loans and credit cards. Americans now owe more on student loans than on credit cards.

So besides, student loans, what to do ?
A “rich” parent helps … a “loving” grandparent also has been known to step in for a few lucky people … but most students rely on student loans, part-time jobs, scholarships, and Pell Grants.

Mr. Kline’s decision to push for cutting Pell Grants is anti-business … anti-job … and anti-Education.

Community college students have the largest percentage of Pell Grant recipients of any sector — 34 percent of all Pell Grants went to students at two-year public colleges in 2008-9 — and the cuts are likely to hit their students hard.

David Baime, senior vice president for government relations and research at the American Association of Community Colleges, called the effort to cutoff students a “body blow”.
“A couple of the proposed changes would be disproportionately harmful to our students compared to students attending other kinds of institutions,” Baime said.

Community colleges are also the least likely to be able to make up the lost funds, meaning that losing the grant could mean the difference between staying enrolled and dropping out.
“These are people who are recently unemployed and trying to train for a new job to support their families,” Patricia Hurley, associate dean and financial aid director at Glendale Community College, said. “If they can’t get into the community college, then the only other option for them would be a more expensive private school. For me it is, it shuts the door on a specific population of students or potential students, and they really don’t have any other resources at that point.”

Private For-Profit Schools is always an option and Mr. Kline has had been honored at Capitol Hill Club, which is the premiere social club and restaurant for Republicans in the nation’s capital, by lobbyists and investors in the For-Profit Industry.

The math is simple … reduce the Pell Grants so that more students have to rely on student loans and then push them into programs at for-profit institutions … maybe instead of attending South Central in Fairmont, why not attend a for-profit institution like ITT Technical in Brooklyn Center, Eden Prairie or Woodbury … how that will help businesses in New Ulm or any other community in southern Minnesota is beyond me.

Mr. Kline’s decision to push for cutting Pell Grants is anti-business … anti-job … and anti-Education.

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New Ulm Journal Editorial
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This week is Minnesota Manufacturer’s Week, a time to celebrate the good news and the good things manufacturers bring to the state.
Manufacturing provides about 300,200 jobs in the state, about 14 percent of all private-sector jobs, according to the state Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED). It contributes more than $30 billion to the state economy, and represents about 17 percent of the state’s gross domestic product.
There are those who think manufacturing jobs are shrinking, being shipped out of the state or the country. But in the second quarter of 2011, there were 2,809 vacant manufacturing jobs in the state, a job vacancy rate of about 2.1 percent, according to DEED.
Manufacturers need a skilled workforce, able to keep up with technological innovations that drive productivity increases. A survey of Minnesota manufacturers in 2011 shows almost half had positions unfilled due to lack of qualified applicants. Skilled production and science and engineering occupations had the greatest shortage. Minnesota’s Southwest region, including Brown County, showed 49 percent of the manufacturers responding to the survey indicated a moderate or serious worker shortage.
There is a great need for education and training to fill this need. Manufacturers need workers with computer skills, process improvement and problem solving skills, the survey indicated. Community and technical schools are the most effective source of training, according to the survey.
It would seem this is a good time to think about the role of local school districts, like District 88, in addressing these educational needs. Better schools should provide their students with the background and education they need to move on and be successful. That means more than success in ACT and SAT scores for the college bounds. Students heading to community colleges and vocational schools need computer skills, problem solving skills, and other basics that will help them qualify for good jobs such as manufacturing is offering.
District 88 is seeking a tax levy referendum on Nov. 8 that will raise funds it needs to preserve and maintain its programs, including industrial arts programs. It needs funds to revamp its 18-year-old computer network.
New Ulm prides itself on the work ethic of the local labor force. Willing workers also need technical skills. We hope voters will see the importance of investing in the education of tomorrow’s work force when they go to the polls on Nov. 8.

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