Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Exclusive ~ The Hillsider asks the gubernatorial candidates

How do you perceive
Duluth's workforce meeting the required skills for economic recovery from this recession?

CAPTION: Minnesota gubernatorial candidates at the Duluth Chamber of Commerce The Forum event on Sept. 7, which was held at the Duluth Playhouse. From left to right: Tom Horner - Independent, Tom Emmer - Republican and Mark Dayton - DFL.Photo by Naomi Yaeger-Bischoff)

Mark Dayton - DFL candidate for Minnesota governor

Underemployment and skill mismatches are big problems for Duluth and the entire state as a whole. Duluth, and the Northeast region, has fared worse than the state as a whole in recent years. To make matters worse, as we come out of this recession, the types of jobs that become available require a much different skill set than what was needed before the recession.
A 2005 UMD study on underemployment in the region found that, “23.3 percent of those currently employed have one or more valid certificates or degrees that are not used in their current job.”

The percentage of healthcare jobs in Duluth is almost double the state average. Meanwhile, the loss of manufacturing has hit northern Minnesota particularly hard. As a result, there are opportunities in the health care industry for skilled workers, but large numbers of unemployed workers from the manufacturing sector don’t have the needed skills to fill these positions.

The Dayton administration will partner with local communities to identify these gaps and direct investments to workforce development as needed. The Dayton budget will prioritize higher education so students will have access to affordable education that is targeted to career opportunities in the local economy. Only through these partnerships can we identify the needs and direct the appropriate investments in training.

Tom Emmer - Republican candidate for Minnesota governor

Duluth has a rich history of innovation, entrepreneurship and resiliency. Generations of hard working men and women in northern Minnesota grew the city from its roots as a fur-trading settlement to a bastion of opportunity in the wheat, mining, lumber and transportation industries, to name a few. The region has both flourished and struggled throughout history, but one thing remains constant—the people are and always have been responsible for its renewal.
In today’s economy, Minnesota and Duluth are in need of another economic rebirth.

We need to bring job creation, business growth and economic expansion back to the area. People will once again facilitate the innovation and creativity needed to get our economic engine moving again. In doing so, Minnesota will continue to be the best place to live, work and raise a family.
I have been traveling the state for months talking with voters about how we can revive our economy, create new jobs and eliminate government regulations that impede growth. By reforming our regulatory and permitting processes, we can get PolyMet, Duluth Metals and Franconia operating at full potential.

As governor, my two top priorities will be creating jobs and improving education. The key to long-term job creation is education. We must, however, improve education through long-overdue reforms. Reforming education is as much about jobs and future prosperity as it is about learning. That is why we have laid out an education reform plan for pre-K, K-12 and higher education. In working with the university and MnSCU system, we can achieve the reform needed to improve educational outcomes for our students, thus ensuring a 21st century, globally competitive workforce.

Northeast Minnesota is on the cusp of generating thousands of new, high-paying jobs, and I am committed to making that happen. This area has raw potential for a complete revitalization of the Range, and I am excited to fight on behalf of the people to allow them to do what they do best—put their minds, bodies and entrepreneurial spirit back to work.

Tom Horner - Independent candidate for Minnesota governor

In Minnesota, we have had a lot of big talk. We have had too little big and bold action.
There is great opportunity if we make sound, upfront investments rather than continue passing our problems down to our kids. But before we simply ask ‘how much do we spend?’ we need to ask ‘what for?’

In education, two outcomes are critically important.

First, we need more Minnesotans with some level of post-secondary education. According to a recent Georgetown study, 70 percent of the jobs in Minnesota will require post-secondary education in the year 2018. That starts by assuring access to good two-year community and technical schools.

Second, we also need to create a system that promotes lifelong learning, from cradle to grave.
From there we can back up to make smart, long-term decisions, not just for our workforce but for our outstanding civic culture. That means targeting investments in early childhood learning to help reform K-12 education. Then we need to make sure we teach students in ways that reflect how they actually absorb new information and develop new skills.

The two-year technical colleges must play a key role in workforce readiness for both young students and older students seeking new skills. Regionally situated, these schools are best positioned for agility and responsiveness with customized training needs, refresher training courses, and professional licensing requirements.

We need to make sure both our two- and four-year schools provide the training and curricula that address the job needs of local businesses. My community revitalization plan includes very specific proposals for training and vocational programs.

Together we must have a vision for how Minnesota leads in innovation, entrepreneurialism and education. Otherwise our state will struggle to keep up with the rest of the nation.