Thursday, October 14, 2010

Exclusive: Hillsider asks gubernatorial candidate Tom Horner about Duluth's workforce and economic recovery

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

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.