Minnesota State chancellor talks training for jobs

GRANITE FALLS – Minnesota State Chancellor Devinder Malhotra made a stop at the Minnesota West Granite Falls Campus Wednesday to talk to area education representatives about the importance of partnering with local businesses to train tomorrow’s employees.

Malhotra spoke of the Launch Your Future Today (LYFT) Career Pathways project that is in its infancy in this community and technical college system. It began with site tours in 2014, followed by attempts at legislative funding in 2015 and 2016 and the pilot program went operational in the 2016-17 school year.

In 2018 a LYFT Application for Funds was developed and made available to school districts (and their partners) that are members of the SWWC, Minnesota West Carl Perkins Consortium, or the Mid-Minnesota Carl Perkins Consortium, the LYFT web page says.

Funding for LYFT comes from a $3 million grants from the 2017 Minnesota Legislative session that will run through June 30, 2022. Grants up to $50,000 are available to school, business and college partners on a rolling application cycle, the Project Overview said. LYFT funding is available to high schools (and their partners) to develop shared career and technical education (CTE) courses and programs. 

“This (project) is wide-ranged, very rare and very very special,” Malhotra said. “It’s what Minnesota needs. Thank you for being a trailblazer. As large as the impact is, we need to do more.”

Malhotra said that the basic purpose of the visit was to find out how the community and technical colleges could sustain and enhance programs like LYFT.

LYFT is a rural career and technical education (CTE) pathway initiative with the purpose of rebuilding CTE in southwest and west central Minnesota. The goal of LYFT Career Pathways is to gain marketable skills through meaningful CTE courses and opportunities, which lead to further education and careers that match, not just our region’s labor market needs, the Project Overview said.

“We want to be for you and of you, not just to be a part of your community,” Malhotra said.

Malhotra said that two-thirds of the students graduating from the 37 Minnesota colleges did so from two-year colleges and 75 percent of those students graduated to careers in technical jobs. Programs like LYFT can help the students choose careers in industries that could help them stay in this area if they wanted.

“What are the gaps?” he asked. “I want to work with your president to provide what you need. We’re developing scholarship programs to help (students) compete. We’re also working to see if these scholarships can be supplemented.”

Sen. Bill Weber, (R) District 22, asked Malhotra if the project was helping to reach parents with the value of a two-year degree. Malhotra said that it’s a work in progress. The knowledge content has gone up, but they need to talk more about the two-year degrees so that parents and students are making informed decisions.

“These students are a great example of getting the information out,” Malhotra said of three participating students who spoke at this event, sharing with the chancellor and others in attendance what classes they are taking and what they are learning in addition to the vocational jobs, including employability and ethics.

Employers’ needs are always changing, especially as technology changes, Malhotra said, “We can’t teach students everything. They need to know in four years new jobs will be coming that we haven’t even heard of yet.”

Also speaking were: Minnesota West Community and Technical College President Terry Gaalswyk, Southwest West Central Executive Director Cliff Carmody and others representing Regional Partnerships Advancing Career and Technical Education.

Also attending were local legislators Rep. Chris Swedzinski (R) District 16A, Granite Falls Mayor Dave Smiglewski, area superintendents and representatives from various service cooperatives.

The LYFT service area includes 18 counties of Southwest and West Central Minnesota (regions 8, 6E and 6W), all members of the Southwest West Central Service Cooperative (SWWC), the Minnesota West Carl Perkins Consortium and the Mid-Minnesota Carl Perkins Consortium, the Project Overview said.

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