Weather Forecast


Closing a skills gap

There’s high demand for health care and manufacturing workers in the Alexandria area, but there’s a skills gap when it comes to finding qualified people for those jobs.

0 Talk about it

A federal grant program may help bridge that gap.

U.S. Senator Al Franken recently introduced the Community College to Career Fund Act, a competitive grant program that would help fund partnerships between businesses and two-year colleges, like Alexandria Technical and Community College (ATCC).

An estimated 2 million Americans would be trained for jobs in high-demand industries, such as health care, advanced manufacturing, clean energy and information technology.

Franken was in Alexandria last August to hear from a group of about 20 people representing local manufacturing companies, health care, business and education on the need for partnerships to address a skills gap in the country.

During that visit, Franken said, “Alexandria is way ahead of the curve and is the model for what I want to do. But, it feels like Alexandria, even though it’s ahead of the curve, could use this kind of plan, and actually might be in a really good position in a competitive grant system to get it. We do have a skills gap, a lot of baby boomers are retiring, there will be jobs to fill and yet we have unemployment.”

Jan Doebbert, ATCC’s executive vice-president of academic and student affairs, told the Echo Press, “The Community College Career Fund Act provides the opportunity to build on the strong framework for business and education partnerships that Alexandria and the surrounding communities have developed. The college currently provides credit for paid internships, apprenticeships, and other credit for work experience. The incentives in the grant would allow the college to better meet the high demand for workers in health care and manufacturing in west central Minnesota. The college looks at this as an opportunity to position the college and the community as a center for high skills technical education.”

ATCC is one of several supporting organizations of the Community College to Career Fund Act.

Amy Chaffins

Amy Chaffins is a journalist working for the Echo Press newspaper in Alexandria, Minnesota.

(320) 763-3133