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How ATCC meets workforce needs

There are several studies and articles about the looming shortage of educated workers that indicate by the year 2020, 74 percent of jobs in Minnesota will require some type of education and training beyond high school. Minnesota State, which includes Alexandria Technical and Community College, plays a major role in developing the talent needed by our state and local businesses and industries. ATCC faculty and staff get calls regularly from employers throughout Minnesota and adjacent states asking about our students and when they can interview them. Often these requests for graduates come five to six months prior to students graduating. Over 87 percent of ATCC graduates find employment in their field of study within one year of graduation.

Beyond the traditional degree and certificate programs offered by Minnesota State, more than 15,000 customized and specialized training, occupational, and professional classes are offered as well. ATCC's Customized Training Department works closely with regional and local business and industry to provide programs and courses specific to their needs.

ATCC does a great job in providing quality facilities and aligning its programs with the workforce needs of the region. It has tremendous support from state and local employers in the form of equipment and scholarship donations. Like many Minnesota State institutions, ATCC is struggling to maintain its aging facilities, many of which are now over 50 years old. Examples include seriously aging and declining HVAC and water systems along with much needed roof replacements. The college has deferred maintenance on facilities in order to keep program equipment and curriculum at the level needed to maintain a strong workforce.

This year as the Minnesota Legislature meets, the number one priority for Minnesota State and ATCC is asset preservation or what's called HEAPR (Higher Education Asset Preservation). In past years, capital building projects or new facilities were the most important requests Minnesota State would make of the legislators. Asset preservation is crucial if we are to maintain the quality of our facilities. Minnesota State's request to the legislature this year is $130 million for 54 campuses across Minnesota. Governor Dayton sees asset preservation for the campuses important enough to increase the request to $180 million.

So what does this mean if the request for the original $130 million is funded? It means ATCC would get $8.1 million in asset preservation dollars. This would fund the replacement of two aging HVAC systems, a number of much needed roof replacements, and repairs to exterior walls where the rain is getting in between the interior and exterior walls. Unfortunately, none of these projects are visible to students and visitors to the campus like a new building or wing would be, but they are critical to the safety and well-being of our students, faculty, staff and users of the facilities. What can residents of our communities do about this? Let your legislators know that Minnesota State and ATCC need their assistance in this critical legislative bonding year. We need to keep our colleges and universities in the best shape possible in order to continue developing the talent needed to meet Minnesota's workforce needs.

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Laura Urban is the president of the Alexandria Technical and Community College. In the Know is a rotating column written by community leaders from the Douglas County area.