Legislative Update: February 13, 2019

Minnesota State highlights partnerships to help students succeed

legupdate2.13On Tuesday in the Senate Higher Education Finance and Policy committee, Minnesota State highlighted workforce development initiatives for committee members. First, the committee learned about the workforce development scholarships funded through a 2017 Minnesota State appropriation of $1 million. Each college received 14 scholarships to prepare new students for careers in high demand sectors.

Many of the colleges worked with businesses in their communities to leverage additional funds for these scholarships. In addition, Minnesota Precision Manufacturing Association (MPMA) donated $30,000 for scholarships offered to new students entering advanced manufacturing programs at Minnesota State colleges. The contribution supplemented scholarships offered under the Workforce Development Scholarship program. Amy Walstein with MPMA testified on behalf of the association, confirming the importance the workforce development scholarship program has had for students and communities throughout Minnesota. Ms. Walstein told committee members that the colleges of Minnesota State play a critical role in developing the skilled workforce that manufacturers in Minnesota need in order to thrive.

President Joe Mulford, Pine Technical and Community College explained that the workforce development scholarships are student focused. He testified that there is a lack of available skilled workforce for economic expansion in his area. The scholarships help change perceptions, increase higher education attainment in the region and create awareness of opportunities for rural youth.

President Mulford said the college has focused on finding business partners in order to increase private support to raise awareness of college affordability. Bridget Petersen, with SPIRE Credit Union, shared with members how SPIRE partnered with the college in order to enhance efforts because they saw a need in the community. SPIRE donated additional funds to grow the workforce development scholarship program for students attending Pine Technical and Community College.

Committee members also learned about how Riverland Community College is partnering with The Hormel Foundation to develop a skilled workforce to fuel economic success. President Adenuga Atewologun, Riverland Community College, shared that the college’s strategic vision, A Blueprint for Excellence 2015-2020, provides a framework for the college’s planning and decision-making processes. Atewologun said the college’s enrollment has increased the past two years, and the diversity of the student body is increasing. Riverland is part of several pilot projects to close the academic achievement gap, and Atewologun explained that The Hormel Foundation is a strategic partner in closing the gaps and creating the workforce for the future.

Danielle Heiny, Diversity Officer at Riverland Community College, shared about three different scholarships. The first, Be Your Best Summer Academy, has been in operation since 2007 and strives to increase math and English skills of underrepresented students during an eight-week summer academy. More than 300 students have been accepted through a competitive application process. Through intrusive advising and college prep courses, Riverland has seen a 92 percent success rate, with a 74 percent matriculation to Riverland Community College.

The Hormel Foundation has invested $1.8 million over the past nine years through Cycles for Success Scholarships. Heiny said the combination of intrusive advising, financial support, and community and college engagement has resulted in these underrepresented students outperforming general students who do not have the same barriers. Cycles for Success has served 410 students over the last nine years.

Heiny also explained how The Hormel Foundation is now creating an even greater investment in the region’s youth and the communities with The Hormel Foundation Austin Assurance Scholarship. This scholarship provides two years of tuition-free education at Riverland Community College for graduates of Austin High and Pacelli High in Austin, Minnesota. Steve Rizzi, testified at the hearing on behalf of The Hormel Foundation, and talked about the importance of the investment to the region, strengthening the local economy with skilled graduates to enter the workforce.

Gema Alvarado, Executive Director of Parenting Resource Center, Inc., and a graduate of Riverland Community College, who was part of Be Your Best Summer Academy and the Cycles for Success Scholarship program, shared her experience with the committee. Alvarado now leads the Parenting Resource Center which provides services and supports to parents in 11 counties, and she is on the board of directors of The Hormel Foundation. She is currently finishing a MSW degree from Walden University and has earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology, Child and Adolescent Development from Walden University. Heiny explained that Alvarado embodies the lasting impact of higher education in removing barriers for underrepresented students. Heiny said, “The Hormel Foundation Austin Assurance Scholarship will exponentially create more success stories like Gema in the years to come.”

The committee learned from Mary Rothchild, Senior System Director of Workforce Development; Valerie DeFor, Executive Director, Minnesota State Healthforce Center of Excellence; and Chris Hadfield, Director, Minnesota State Transportation Center of Excellence about the great work of the Minnesota State Centers of Excellence.

Minnesota State hosts eight Centers of Excellence, each serving a major industry that faces serious workforce shortages. The centers collaborate with industry and educators to attract and prepare students for success in high-demand careers.

Since 2008, HealthForce Minnesota has been collaborating with partners in education, industry and community to increase the number and expand the diversity of healthcare workers, integrate health science education practice and research, build capacity for education and industry to collaborate, and enhance patient care.

Ms. DeFor highlighted one initiative of HealthForce, known as Scrubs Camp. This Camp was launched in 2008 at Winona State University and has since expanded to additional campuses. The camp is a collaborative effort where college campuses host summer camps, industry partners welcome tours and provide clinical experiences, and HealthForce Minnesota coordinates curriculum, registration and scholarships.

At Scrubs Camps, students get to interact directly with many working professionals in the field and through field trips, get a tour and experience of what it would be like to work in a particular career field.

In 2014, HealthForce Minnesota began a collaborative partnership with Girl Scouts River Valleys to develop a one-day Scrubs Camp experience during the academic year. Designed to serve students who identify as girls of color and/or qualify for free and reduced meals at their school district, this program helps to diversify the workforce pipeline. More information regarding Scrubs Camps can be found here.

The other Center of Excellence highlighted at the hearing is the Minnesota State Transportation Center of Excellence. Founded in 2013, the Minnesota State Transportation Center of Excellence is focused on developing a highly-skilled workforce to meet the current and future needs for high-demand, high-paying, high-growth, high-tech careers in Minnesota’s transportation industries. In an effort to meet those current and future workforce needs, the Minnesota State Transportation Center of Excellence promotes and aligns transportation industry career and employment opportunities by: developing communication platforms; helping build high-quality training programs; sharing and implementing best practices; collecting, centralizing, and sharing data with decision makers; embarking on new endeavors and innovative approaches; providing professional develop opportunities; and connecting employers, educators, and the future workforce together.

Director Hadfield highlighted Nitro-X, a Summer Camp where middle school aged campers work on remote controlled cars. They learn about how vehicles work, build their confidence with technical skills, work in teams to develop life and employability skills, gain exposure to industry by going on tours of local businesses and have fun showing off their skills at the end of the week with a race. More information regarding the Nitro-X Summer Camp can be found here.

If interested in learning more about the testimony provided at the hearing, an audio recording of the hearing can be found HERE.

Minnesota State HEAPR request heard in House

Brian Yolitz, Associate Vice Chancellor for Facilities with Minnesota State; President Robbyn Wacker, St. Cloud State University; and President Annesa Cheek, St. Cloud Technical and Community College shared the system’s $150 million HEAPR request with House Higher Education Finance and Policy committee members earlier today.

President Wacker thanked lawmakers for their support of the system’s bonding needs. She explained that St. Cloud State University’s higher education asset preservation and replacement (HEAPR) needs in the 2019 request includes stadium structural repairs, heat plant building infrastructure, tuck pointing, ice center cooling plant design, roof replacement and HVAC replacement.


When asked by Rep. Dan Wolgamott, DFL-St. Cloud, what the consequences would be if the Legislature doesn’t fund the HEAPR projects, President Wacker responded that while these types of projects are not glamorous, it’s imperative to make sure students have basic living and learning environments. She said the quality of classrooms make a difference and influences recruitment and retention of both faculty and students.

President Cheek shared with the committee that St. Cloud Technical and Community College’s HEAPR needs will address many issues and keep students safe, warm and dry. The college’s HEAPR projects for 2019 include an HVAC upgrade, fire alarm upgrade and interior finish renewal that needs to be upgraded.

Cheek said not making these upgrades will slowly erode the commitment to communities and generations of students. “Our promise to provide access and opportunity to our community is a promise we’ve made over the last 70 years. We need to be able to continue to deliver on that promise,” Cheek said. When students come to campus they need to feel safe and receive experiences that adequately prepare them, Cheek said. “These projects may not be glitzy and glamorous, but these investments are critically important.”

Mr. Yolitz explained that the physical plant of the 54 Minnesota State campuses totals 28.6 million square feet and 7,000 acres made up of classrooms, labs, dining facilities, residential space and parking lots. Yolitz said that many buildings have reached their useful lives so it’s imperative to take care of the buildings the system currently has. He said these projects benefit every corner of the state and are what the campuses really need. Yolitz explained that fixing roofs, HVAC, boilers, tuck work, exterior repairs, electrical systems, and many other projects will keep Minnesotans warm, safe and dry.

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