Margaret Anderson Kelliher,
Minnesota High Tech Association President and CEO Developing a full range of
STEM talent is critical to continued high tech growth in Minnesota
Civic CaucusFocus on Human CapitalInterview December
Adams, Dave Broden (vice chair), Janis Clay, Pat Davies, Paul Gilje
(executive director), Randy Johnson, Margaret Anderson Kelliher, Dan
Loritz (chair), Paul Ostrow, Dana Schroeder, Clarence Shallbetter.
According to Margaret Anderson Kelliher of the Minnesota High Tech
Association (MHTA), by 2020,
will need an additional 80,000 to 180,000 people with science,
technology, engineering and math (STEM)
degrees to fill newly created jobs and to replace retiring baby
boomers. She calls the challenge of finding the talent companies need
one of the top issues affecting growth of companies in our state and
region, particularly related to technology jobs and basic-science
jobs. She says workforce training must be our most important area of
focus in order to meet MHTA's goal of
Minnesota being in the top five science and technology states in the
Since the birth replacement rate won't fill all of these jobs,
Kelliher says, we can't afford to lose people along the way. She
believes we suffer in the STEM area from the "super-bright student
bias," often focusing only on the top students who can qualify, for
example, for the highly ranked University of Minnesota's engineering
program. But we must also identify people in the middle with good
skills and aptitude, who can complete two- or four-year STEM degrees
in Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) institutions, are
more likely to stay in Minnesota after graduation and can have
Kelliher believes we must do a better job of exposing people to the
variety of job and training opportunities in STEM
fields. That includes bringing people from high-tech businesses into
the classroom to tell students and their parents what they do, taking
students on tours of high-tech companies and providing more high-tech
internships for high school and college students. She discusses
several programs outside of the state's postsecondary system providing
these opportunities and alternative job skills training.
As a member of MnSCU's
board of trustees, Kelliher says the biggest challenge facing the
system is its low completion rate for students, whether they are
pursuing certificate programs, two-year degrees or four-year degrees.
This is expensive for the individual, for the state and for the
system, she says. Retaining the number of students who enter the MnSCU
system would solve the system's budget and enrollment issues, she
Margaret Anderson Kelliher is president and CEO of the Minnesota High
Tech Association (MHTA). Together with the association's nearly 350
member companies and organizations, Kelliher works to fuel Minnesota's
prosperity through innovation and technology. United behind a common
vision to make Minnesota one of the country's top five technology
states, MHTA members represent various technology sectors, including
IT, biosciences, advanced manufacturing, clean, green and education
Prior to coming to MHTA, Kelliher served in the Minnesota House of
Representatives (DFL-Minneapolis) from 1999 to 2010, including two
terms as Speaker of the House. In 2012, she was appointed to the
Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) Board of Trustees.
She chairs Gov. Mark Dayton's Broadband Task Force and teaches at the
of Minnesota's Humphrey School of Public Affairs. She serves on the
board of directors for the YWCA of Minneapolis, the Greater Twin
Cities United Way and Textile Center of Minneapolis.
Kelliher has a B.A. in
political science from GustavusAdolphusCollege.
She earned her master's degree in public administration from the
Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
Since issuing its
statement on human capital, the Civic Caucus has concentrated on
learning more about the continuing need for a strong workforce in
Minnesota in the coming years. The Civic Caucus interviewed Margaret
Anderson Kelliher about the role of the Minnesota High Tech
Association and its members in advocating for and helping to provide
education and training for the highly skilled workers needed by the
state's high tech industries.
High Tech Association (MHTA) wants Minnesota to be in the top five
science and technology states in the country. MHTA
President Margaret Anderson Kelliher said science and technology
education continues from early learning all the way through to higher
education. "With early learning, we've learned so much in 20 years
about how children learn," she said. "From 100 years ago, we've come
to a radically different understanding of children and how their
brains take in information. The investments in early childhood and
pre-K education are critically important to get to the workforce of
There is great debate in higher education today, she continued, over
whether we're educating for a job or for a life. "I would say we're
educating for both," she said. She said that applies to early
childhood, as well, since young children are learning both the
fundamental skills for operating in the world and things that will
make them more receptive learners.
MnSCU, education technology is becoming more important.
Ten or 20 years ago, Kelliher said, people thought new technology in
education was going to be a new way of delivering education to
students online. But, she said, the most successful model is a hybrid
model: a human touch model, with delivery of content online, as well.
"The hybrid model has in many ways become the preferred model," she
most interesting development is the use of data in education.
Kelliher said the ability to capture and integrate large data sets
will change the way we can help students along the way. An example in
higher education is "intrusive advising," which is the use of data to
help monitor where individual students are academically and whether
they're showing up for class and doing their assignments. Students
then have contact with an advisor or counselor to check in and help
them stay on track for success. She said students have a much higher
rate of getting to completion when that type of monitoring happens.
"And the number-one thing is completing college, whether a four-year
degree, two-year degree or certificate program," she said.
its goal of becoming one of the top five science and technology
states, the MHTA is focused on four main areas:
through job retraining, college, advanced degree and other types of
There is a high correlation within our 350 member companies of
traditional entrepreneurship and company formation, and of
entrepreneurship in large organizations with creating new products.
has presented the
Tekne Awards for the past 15 years, which celebrate innovation
supports policies that support and encourage a science-
and-technology or knowledge-based economy in Minnesota.
about the workforce and what will happen to it in the future is
troubling for science and technology. "But
we have a problem today," Kelliher said. "One of the number-one issues
affecting growth for companies in our state and region is the talent
issue, particularly related to technology jobs and basic science jobs.
People still love it here and companies want to grow here. But one of
the biggest breakdowns is not being able to find the talent you need."
She said available investment dollars here are also an issue, but
finding, attracting and growing the right sorts of talent here are
will need between 80,000 and 180,000 additional people with degrees in
the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields to take
newly created jobs and to replace retiring baby boomers. The
80,000 estimate is from
Minnesota Compass and the 180,000 estimate is from a
Georgetown University study. "The ability to just grow your own
workforce probably doesn't work as the only strategy," Kelliher said.
Other strategies include attracting more people from other states to
Minnesota and retaining them here. "It also means true immigration
reform that helps attract and keep people in these highly specific
areas," she said.
the U.S., the birth replacement rate won't fill all of the jobs, so we
can't afford to lose people along the way. "We
need to find a way to help students get connected," Kelliher said. For
example, there are students who have aptitude, but not the skills
necessary to go into the engineering program at the
of Minnesota (U of M). She said we can't depend on graduates of the U
of M's highly ranked engineering programs to all stay in
Nor will the program produce enough engineers to fill all the jobs
here in the state. But graduates of the engineering programs at places
like Minnesota State University-Mankato, St.
State University and the University of St. Thomas are more likely to
she said, and by working together to retain all those students we can
meet the gap.
suffer in the STEM area from the "super-bright student bias."
Kelliher said, "We have a bias toward the genius. But we must also
identify people with good skills, who wouldn't qualify for the U of
M's engineering school, but who could very easily get a two-year
degree at a community and technical college in the STEM
fields or a four-year degree in that area and have a really successful
career." She said culturally we have this issue, and it is reflected
in the K-12 school system and the colleges.
need to beef up the middle, both how we think about the middle and how
we teach to the middle in terms of these math and science skills,"
Kelliher continued. She believes it's difficult, because, for example,
students can graduate from high school taking only three years of
math. "Maybe we should expand the definition of what years three and
four could look like for high schoolers," she said. "Why can't
computer-programming classes count as a math requirement in Minnesota
Things have changed: now technology is everywhere.
Kelliher said technology is wherever businesses are. "It's an enabling
technology," she said. "That's why it's troubling if we don't have an
adequate source of talent."
said an MHTA survey of businesses released in mid-November shows that
businesses are saying that what's unique about Minnesota is that we
have a much more diverse set of technology industries in the state.
"It's why, even though the recession hit a lot of Minnesotans very
hard, the recovery was much faster than elsewhere," she said. "That's
because of the diversity we have in this area. We're not Silicon
Valley and we're not just about the medical-device industry. We're
also about health-care technology because of the health-care companies
we have here. That's a really fast-growing area in
Educational technology is also remarkably strong here."
must make our own population aware of what's available in the STEM
MHTA is doing two things in this area:
Over six years ago, MHTA started a
portal for teachers and businesses to be able to exchange both goods
and speakers: the
GetSTEM of Minnesota website. Kelliher said the website helps
K-12 teachers and business people make a connection to have speakers
come into the classroom to talk about what they do or for businesses
who might have things to give away that could be helpful to
Another important effort is MHTA's
SciTechsperience internship program, which connects college
students studying STEM disciplines to paid internships in small to
mid-sized entrepreneurial Minnesota companies. The program is part
of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development
(DEED). MHTA created the program, using a grant from the state.
Kelliher said last year
the program placed 117 paid college interns at small and mid-sized
science and technology firms across the state. Forty-five percent were
placed in rural Minnesota. "The idea is to build student awareness,"
she said. "We wanted to expose students and attract students back to
the state so they can have a real work experience." Over the past
three years, almost 250 interns have been placed.
An interviewer commented that high school kids must also become
exposed to the type of work done at high tech companies, so they could
get interested and perhaps go to technical colleges to train for that
"It's got to be more applied," Kelliher said. She said the GetSTEM
program includes a speakers' bureau and can include visits to
companies. "There's too much of kids doing only what they've been
exposed to," she said. "Part of what's needed is breaking that cycle.
Students often pursue only what they're exposed to."
"Does that mean bringing tech education back into the high school
realm?" she asked. "Or is there some way of sampling things with less
than a four-year degree?"
Kelliher singled out as a successful program
Genesys Works, based in St. Paul, a college-access program for
low-income students. She explained that during the summer before
their senior year in high school, the program trains students in basic
technical help-desk skills. It also works on developing the soft, or
foundational, skills of employment. The students work throughout
through their senior year in high school, earning money for college.
The program helps students apply for college. Kelliher said the
technical training is also helpful to the students throughout college.
"It's a successful model a little different from apprenticeship
programs and includes a lot of contact with the students," she said.
Kelliher said highlights of major legislative proposals related to the
talent issue she sees coming for the 2015 session include:
Funding for higher education,
especially related to science and technology at the U of M, MnSCU
and the private, nonprofit schools.
MHTA will be asking for more money
for the college internship program, which has cost $800,000 in the
last two years for 250 interns. State funds partially subsidize
small for-profit companies for paying an intern up to $5,000.
MHTA will be making proposals and
giving support to some existing things it thinks are important to
Minnesota's business climate: the angel investor tax credit to bring
more capital into the state and the research and development tax
credit, which is one of the best in the country.
State Senator Terri Bonoff will have
some proposals related to apprenticeships.
interviewer asked Kelliher if she's comfortable that these proposals
are the best things we could do to address the workforce shortage
issue. "They're really good proposals if we're thinking of things the
state can influence," Kelliher said. "But we need industry-driven
ideas, as well. But these proposals don't address federal issues like
comprehensive immigration reform that gets to the need for
Another interviewer asked if there is legislative support for these
proposals. Kelliher replied that the state has a healthy budget
balance, so it's easier to look at investment in higher education.
That includes a focus on student debt, because legislators are
sensitive to how quickly that's spiked in Minnesota. "Overall, she
said, "we've seen a positive response bipartisanly to issues around
the workforce, especially getting students into places where they're
having hands-on experiences."
partnership between Hennepin County and Minneapolis Community and
Technical College (MCTC) is an innovative way of matching students to
available positions in the county.
Kelliher said Hennepin County Administrator David Hough has partnered
Associate Vice President of Workforce Development Mike Christenson to
use a tool in the MnSCU system called
Wanted Analytics. The tool helps people analyze their current
resume and skill set and helps them match their current skills to
County is one of the largest employers in
and faces significant current and future retirement issues. The county
wants to fill those positions and diversify their workforce, she said.
Hough found that many of the positions within the county have evolved
to the point that a four-year B.A. degree is the entry point. "Working
with the county board, the administration was able to move many, many
positions to a two-year A.A. degree as the entry point," Kelliher
said. "It's an innovative way of matching students into Hennepin
County and helping them gain the foundational soft skills and work
skills to lead to a job." She said the county is also working with
Project for Pride in Living.
The workforce training area is the most important area to focus on.
Workforce Investment Act of 2013 gives us an opportunity to
rethink that whole area, Kelliher said.
MnSCU is the largest generator of the higher education population in
Minnesota, but its number-one problem is the completion rate for
"We have too many students who enter into our two-year or four-year
colleges and don't complete," Kelliher said. "That is an expensive
proposition for the individual, for the state and for the system." She
pointed out that it's more costly to complete a degree at a later date
and allows the accumulation of student debt. Also, she said, it raises
the issue of developmental education, when preparation not been strong
enough in the K-12 system to support college work. She said MnSCU's
number-one challenge is helping students complete their degree within
two to six years. If MnSCU retained the number of students who enter,
it would solve many of the system's budget and enrollment issues,
The second big issue for MnSCU, she said, is getting students who
don't think of themselves as college-bound to come to the two-year
higher education institutions.
"How do you get into a role you haven't been exposed to in high school
or in your family life?" she asked. She pointed out that health care
has a great laddering system, where people can keep moving up, but
it's harder to see that pathway in technology, where many companies
want a four-year degree in engineering, math or a technical area. "We
have to do a better job as a system in helping people get started,"
Some of the problems around MnSCU's "Charting the Future" plan revolve
around the fact that higher education is going through some of the
biggest growing pains it's had in years.
Kelliher said people are expecting greater delivery on value and
people disagree whether we are educating a person for life or for a
job. "I think we're educating people for both," she said. "It's very
unlikely that people will stay at one job for 30 years. They will need
the flexibility of skill upgrades and developmental soft skills to be
able to navigate that world."
reject the idea that we should only be educating for education's
sake," she said. "I don't know people who go to college and say they
don't want to have a job when they come out. People want to
contribute; they want to work. We need to help people mature into
productive citizens and also to be employed."
Thirteen of the top 50 occupations for which U.S. H1B visas are
granted are technology-related jobs. All of the top five are
technology related. (H1B
visas allow foreign workers to enter or stay in the U.S. to work in
MHTA has been working with
CompTIA, the largest certifier of technology
programs in country, to start focused information technology (IT) boot
Kelliher said the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy
is interested in helping some regions around the country start IT boot
camps focused on harder-to-employ people, like returning veterans and
people in job training programs like Project for Pride in Living.
Building on this White House program, Twin Cities-based custom
software company The
Nerderyhas just launched
Prime Digital Academy, a school for software engineers.
Prime will feature an intense, immersive, accelerated program to help
learners get up to speed for entry-level jobs in software engineering.
It is partnering with the City of Minneapolis, MHTA, the Creating IT
Futures Foundation and Jewish Family and Children's Services of
Minneapolis to make public and private funding available for
qualifying students who otherwise would be unable to attend.
Kelliher said the Twin Cities will be one of only a few places around
the country to pilot one of these focused IT boot camps. Half of the
students will pay for the program and about half will be
harder-to-employ people who have not had success in the workforce. She
pointed out that the program will be delivered by private industry,
which gets to the issue of the responsiveness of the higher education
systems. "It's been hard to watch that the systems have not been as
responsive as industry needs," she said. "That's why this is
greater percentage of people in Minnesota will have to create their
own companies and their own jobs.
Kelliher said MHTA acquired and offered a venture capital conference
last year (The Minnesota Venture and Finance Conference, formerly
The Collaborative), which brought people together regarding
investment in companies. Thirty-two companies were pitching their
investment attractiveness at the conference. Forty percent of the
companies were medical-technology companies, forty percent were tech
companies and 20 percent were other industries, like food companies.
Kelliher said MHTA is
working on program ideas around entrepreneurship and on bringing more
students to next October's MHTA venture capital conference to show
them what company formation looks like. "We don't have a strong enough
culture around the idea of 'This is what it looks like to start a
company,'" she said. "We need to get students more interested in
company formation. This is something industry can be the leader on.
This is not something government can tell you how to do. This is
something you need entrepreneurs to be able to help you with."
The Civic Caucus
is a non-partisan,
tax-exempt educational organization. The Interview Group
includes persons of varying political persuasions,
reflecting years of leadership in politics and
business. Click here
to see a short personal background of each.
S. Adams, David Broden, Audrey Clay, Janis Clay, Pat Davies, Bill
Frenzel, Paul Gilje (executive director), Dwight Johnson, Randy Johnson, Sallie
Kemper, Ted Kolderie,
Dan Loritz (chair),
Tim McDonald, Bruce Mooty, John Mooty, Jim Olson, Paul Ostrow, Wayne
Popham, Dana Schroeder, Clarence Shallbetter, and Fred Zimmerman