More and more companies address the labor shortage by investing in schools in their communities, and promoting the education, training, and skills they need from their workforce in the not so distant future.

Corporate partnerships with schools are nothing new. But in Minnesota, there is a distinct possibility of a labor shortage on the horizon, and an urgency to close the state’s racial achievement gap.  There are sweeping changes in the ways that businesses participate in learning and promoting hands on activities.

“It’s our imperative to help students understand what 21st century workplace skills are,” said Kathy Funston, who recruits business partners for Burnsville High School’s Pathways program. “We’re able to take your Mom and Dad’s vocational education class and turn it into a highly skilled pre-engineering program.”

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Previously, the focus was on students who were not suited to college and academics.  However now, corporations donate money and employee time to teach students howto use 3D printers to make replacement parts, write code, draw plans for architecture, learn basic medical skills, and create marketing campaigns.

At Wayzata High School, curricula is being developed with assistance from companies such as Medtronic, Ertotron, and Polaris. And in northwestern Minnesota, over 40 students at Bemidji High School have been trained by businesses aligned with the Minnesota Innovation Institute in basic hydraulics, mechanical fabrication, and certified production technology. These efforts address the gap in manufacturing skills.

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