Education leads to opportunities

Sen. Al Franken has joined Sen. Tammy Duckworth in reintroducing legislation to close the “skills gap” in the U.S.

It’s called the Community College to Career Fund Act. According to Franken’s website, the legislation would encourage partnerships that link up businesses with schools to train workers for jobs in high-skilled industries like advanced manufacturing, health care, clean energy and information technology.

“I’ve seen these partnerships work all over Minnesota and I want to scale them up across the country to help boost businesses and create more American jobs,” Franken said. “I’ve been working to fix the “skills gap” for a long time and I’m going to be fighting to make our Community College to Career Fund Act law to fill open jobs, cut education costs for students and make our country more competitive.

On Wednesday, staff members from Franken’s office toured the Marshall Area Technical and Educational Center. (MATEC). The center is an alternative learning center for students in grades ninth through 12th who have not experienced success within the traditional school program. What makes it unique is that students up to the age of 21 have access to a comprehensive array of services to help them earn a high school diploma. It also offers technical training and dual credit opportunities through Minnesota West Technical College. Students can qualify to participate in our certified nursing assistant program or in the welding certification program.

The mission, according to the website: The reason we are here is to provide students with a customized learning experience, a flexible learning environment and opportunities that will lead to success in life.

This mission has proven to be successful in Marshall and the Franken team wanted to get a closer look.

After the tour, a roundtable discussion was held during lunch. Besides the Franken team, it featured officials from MATEC, Southwest Adult Basic Education, Minnesota West Community and Technical College, Southwest Minnesota Private Industry Council and Employers and Community Connections.

MATEC assistant principal Michelle Noriega shared a story about a recent graduate from MATEC who wrote an inspiring poem on his experiences at the school. She said the student was originally from a Central American country.

“This poor kid who was growing up poor and destitute in California, made it to the Midwest and found an opportunity,” Noriega said. “Now he has aspirations to becoming a teacher. Who would of thought a welding class would lead somebody to that. And that is what these opportunities do.”

“We have so many people caught in the cycle of poverty. And this is a way to break that cycle,” Noriega said.

Duckworth expanded on that message on the Franken website.

“At the same time our small businesses are struggling to find qualified candidates to fill job openings, too many young Americans are struggling to find good-paying jobs once they graduate from school. Community colleges across Illinois and throughout the country can help solve both of these problems if we provide the resources they need to do it,” she said.

We agree and urge other members of the Senate to support this legislation. If you want to make America Great Again, it must start with educational opportunities that are offered at MATEC and other technical institutions. More federal funding is needed to support and expand the programs these institutions offer.