Executive Director: Legislative Advocacy

March 12, 2018 No Comments
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Strengthening The Manufacturing Workforce

by Amy Walstien

toc_departments50pxAs you’ll come to learn about me, if you haven’t already … I am a passionate advocate for Minnesota’s skilled workforce. I’ve brought that passion to my role as Executive Director of the Minnesota Precision Manufacturing Association. Finding skilled talent is top of mind for our manufacturing members, and MPMA is hard at work to help strengthen the skilled talent pipeline for the industry.

As I visit your shops, I listen to you talk about your challenges to find workers. Business is good (really good!) and you could be producing much more if only you had a skilled machinist on second shift, or a master machinist to operate a new machine you’re looking to purchase. You ask me, “How do we get young people more interested in manufacturing?” “How do we transfer the art of metal machining to the next generation?” “Who can I call for help finding people?”

The good news is that there are many efforts under way, and MPMA is leading the way in workforce initiatives for the manufacturing industry – both in the field and at the state level. My role is to connect you with programs and key players in your area. And I’m also here to advocate on your behalf through legislative advocacy, like I did last year when I worked as the MPMA’s lobbyist at the State Capitol armed with the idea to create what became the Youth Skills Training program. Legislative advocacy is a key tool in moving the needle forward to strengthen Minnesota’s skilled workforce.

You’ve been reading about the Youth Skills Training program in various MPMA communications for over a year now, and as a result of our advocacy efforts, the program was funded by the Legislature and launched this fall. MPMA has held several informational sessions on the program and we continue to meet with members interested in getting involved. We’ve also kept in constant contact with the team at the Minnesota Department of Labor to refine the process during this pilot phase, and to ensure that the program is workable for employers.

What we’ve learned in the implementation phase is that there is significant demand for these youth skills programs. School districts and local businesses are coming up with great ideas on how they can build robust experiential training programs for high school students. With only $500,000 in seed money for programs, it’s already evident that we’ll need to go back to the Legislature for additional funding, and MPMA is preparing to do just that this session.

Other ideas to strengthen the workforce through legislative advocacy also have emerged, and MPMA is working with legislators on bills to move the needle forward on several issues.

As high schools begin looking at how they will reinvigorate their manufacturing programs, many schools are eager for new equipment. Businesses have been donating equipment to local schools for a long time, but wouldn’t it be great to expand funding by creating a public-private match program! A program like this exists at the post-secondary level, and we are looking to replicate it at the secondary level so high schools can get the equipment they need to build fab labs and/or expand their manufacturing classes.
High school students have long had the opportunity to access college classes through Minnesota’s Postsecondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) program, whereby they earn college credit while still in high school. Last session, Rep. Jim Nash (R-Waconia) launched a bill known as Vocational Postsecondary Enrollment Options (VPSEO) to expand options for students to get credit for technical education classes. Parts of the VPSEO bill moved forward last session, and we’ll move additional pieces forward this coming session by focusing on expanding opportunities for students to access post-secondary technical education classes and credentials.

Due in large part to our efforts on Youth Skills Training last session, and our members’ presence at the Capitol to testify on issues impacting the manufacturing community, MPMA is making itself known as the go-to organization for workforce development issues. We’ll continue to advocate on behalf of our members this coming session – we have a lot of work to do to ensure that you have the talent you need to grow!  pm_endmarkgrn-e1320337194716

Amy Walstien is the Executive Director for Minnesota Precision Manufacturing Association. She can be reached at amy@mpma.com.

Copyright © 2018 Minnesota Precision Manufacturing Association. For permission to use or reprint this article please contact Nancy Huddleston, publications manager for Precision Manufacturing Journal.


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