ST. PAUL, MN – Last month, Rep. Barb Haley (R-Red Wing) served on a panel focusing on manufacturing and workforce issues at a “State of Manufacturing” event hosted by Enterprise Minnesota, a consulting organization that works with manufacturing enterprises. The “State of Manufacturing” event featured the release of the results of an in-depth, statistically significant survey of the perceptions and opinions of over 400 Minnesota manufacturing executives.
“While this survey’s results indicate Minnesota’s manufacturers are doing well, it also underscores one of the biggest problems they face: the shortage of skilled workers,” said Haley. “This shortage stands in the way of manufacturers’ ability to grow and maximize productivity. The good news for young people is that there are countless good-paying jobs out there waiting to be filled. This gap represents an exciting opportunity for students. It’s also the reason why I’ll continue working to ensure they are equipped with the necessary skills to fill the jobs and succeed in careers in manufacturing and the trades.”
Regarding workforce, 48% of manufacturing executives cited difficulty attracting qualified workers as the biggest obstacle to growth, a 14-point increase since 2017. Seventy-one percent said the worker shortage made things difficult, particularly for rural companies (76%). Most manufacturers say they are addressing the worker shortage with efforts to maximize productivity and 76 percent would emphasize improving “people development and process improvement equally.” However, there has been little investment (6 to 13 percent depending on company size) by companies to provide training for employees.
Haley, who serves on the Governor’s Workforce Development Board, has been a strong and effective advocate on workforce development issues in the legislature. During the 2017-18 session, Haley authored legislation that is helping better prepare students for career opportunities by establishing workforce development scholarships, which assist students interested in careers in high-demand fields. This is having a direct impact on Haley’s district as Minnesota State Southeast Tech has eight workforce development scholarships of $3,500 for students this fall.
Haley also co-authored legislation to create Youth Skills Training grants, which feature paid-learning opportunities in high-demand fields for students through partnerships between schools and private industry. Haley worked extensively with a collaborative of Goodhue County and area schools as they were awarded a youth skills training grant. They then created a "Learn and Earn" program with area manufacturers that high school students participated in.
During the 2019 legislative session, Haley helped provide additional funding to continue the youth skills training grant program.