Paul Moe, executive director, Minnesota Job Skills Partnership
Minnesota Job Skills Partnership
is key to future work force
A Civic Caucus
Focus on Human Capital
Interview July 17, 2015
The exponential speed at
which technology is changing makes incumbent worker training
programs critical to meeting the skills needs of Minnesota
employers, according to Paul Moe, director of the Minnesota Jobs
Skills Partnership (MJSP).
With Minnesota at nearly full employment, areas throughout the state
need more skilled, semiskilled and super-skilled workers, he says.
Moe says the state's manufacturers
recognize they will be facing the double whammy of increasing
retirements and the chronic shortage of skilled workers to replace
those retirees. He predicts that in certain pockets of the state,
signing bonuses for new hires in fields like precision manufacturing
will run as high as $10,000 to $30,000.
Moe asserts that MJSP is the premier
incumbent worker-training program in the nation. The program awards
grants to educational institutions partnering with businesses to
design curriculum and provide specific skills training for incumbent
workers. Created in 1983, MJSP has facilitated training for over
100,000 Minnesota workers, he notes.
In addition to focusing on the skill
development of incumbent workers, he says, MJSP also aims to
increase the capacity of educational institutions. Technical
colleges in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU)
system receive the largest share of MJSP training grants. Through
its grants, Moe maintains, the program has been instrumental in
expanding new course offerings at colleges and universities
throughout Minnesota, helping them stay current in training for the
skills employers need.
The Civic Caucus has released
two recent statements on human capital: one in September 2014
laying out the human-capital challenges facing the state today and
in coming years and a follow-up paper in
offering recommendations for maintaining a high-quality workforce in
Minnesota. The Civic Caucus interviewed Paul Moe to learn about the
role of the Minnesota Jobs Skills Partnership in training and
retraining workers to meet the skills needs of Minnesota employers.
Information about the Minnesota Job Skills
Partnership (MJSP). The
Minnesota Job Skills
created in 1983, is a program of the Minnesota Department of
Employment & Economic Development (DEED). It is charged with acting
as a catalyst to bring together businesses and educational
institutions to ensure the skills of the workforce match the demands
of Minnesota employers.
MJSP awards training grants of up to
$400,000 to educational institutions to develop new-job training or
retraining for existing employees. Employers and higher education
institutions apply together for grants. Each institution is
responsible for identifying an employer partner and taking the lead
in developing training requirements to ensure the programs are
employer-focused. Cash and/or in-kind contributions from the
participating businesses must match Partnership funds on at least a
one-to-one ratio. Funds may be used for training-related costs or
educational infrastructure improvements to support businesses
located or intending to locate in Minnesota. Wage subsidies and
tuition reimbursements are not eligible for grants. Projects average
12 months to three years in duration.
Using the grant program, employers can
increase productivity and retention rates and educational
institutions can develop new capacities for training that reflect
market demand. Trainees frequently gain industry-recognized
credentials and new job opportunities.
In addition, under a new Job Training
Incentive pilot program, MJSP awards grants of up to $50,000 to new
or expanding businesses to provide custom training for new jobs.
The number-one problem facing Minnesota's ability to ensure a
high-quality workforce in the coming years is a decline in the total
number of workers. Paul Moe,
director of the Minnesota Jobs Skills Partnership (MJSP), noted that
the current unemployment rate in Minnesota is 3.9 percent, which is
very close to full employment, while the U.S. rate is 5.3 percent.
But with nearly full employment, the
entire state needs more skilled, semiskilled and super-skilled
workers. Moe pointed to a manufacturer in Elk River, Minn., that
makes, among other things, gyro systems for missiles. The company
recently received a training grant from MJSP. The owner just
purchased two precision machining units that will replace about 20
people working at the company, but he told Moe he needs four really
talented, skilled workers to run and repair the machines. Mentioning
other examples of fast-moving technology, Moe commented that there
is a great deal of complexity taking place in the workplace.
That points to the importance of incumbent
worker training programs and incentives. Minnesota does very
well for unemployed workers and dislocated workers, Moe said. But
it's also important, he asserted, if an incumbent worker is about to
lose a job because of lack of skill. He lauded the federal
government's decision to spend money on incumbent worker training,
saying we need to consider alternative ways of supporting workers.
The exponential speed at which technology
is moving makes it difficult for educational institutions to keep
up. "The smarter we get, the faster it keeps moving," Moe said.
He gave an example of a business in St. Cloud that received a
training grant from MJSP. The company has invested in a 3D printer,
which allows workers to create plastic models of the component parts
they've had to purchase from third parties. Now they can
reverse-engineer their own parts from the plastic models, so they no
longer have to buy the parts from outside businesses.
Manufacturers recognize they will be
facing the double whammy of increasing retirements and the chronic
shortage of skilled workers to replace those retirees. Moe said
he recently saw companies giving $5,000 and $10,000 signing bonuses
for new hires. "My prediction," he said, "is that in precision
manufacturing in certain pockets of the state, these signing bonuses
are going to skyrocket to $10,000, $20,000 or $30,000."
He maintains that one benefit to the
shortage of workers is that it might help solve some of the
employment problems of people of color, people with disabilities and
While it's admirable that the Federal
government is now recognizing the importance of incumbent worker
training, MJSP has been doing that work for 33 years. Moe
asserted that MJSP is the premier incumbent worker-training program
in the nation. Grants from the Partnership are used for incumbent
worker training, with businesses partnering with educational
institutions to help design curriculum for needed skills training.
(See "Information about the Minnesota Jobs Skills Partnership"
section above, just before the Discussion section
MJSP provides needed skills training unmet
in the marketplace. "If you can find the training at St. Thomas
or any other universities, we want you to go there and buy it," Moe
said. "Don't come to us." But if it's something that's not
available, he said, then employers should come to MJSP.
MJSP has trained over 100,000 Minnesota
workers during its 33 years in existence. Moe said the
Partnership has worked with every branch of the University of
Minnesota, every institution of the Minnesota State Colleges and
Universities (MnSCU) system, and many private postsecondary
institutions, such as St. Thomas University, the College of St.
Scholastica and Dunwoody College of Technology.
MJSP was patterned after the Bay State
Skills Corporation in Massachusetts. The Partnership operates under
a 12-member board, which includes the president of the University of
Minnesota, the chancellor of MnSCU, a member appointed by the Senate
Majority Leader, one by the Speaker of the House and eight people
appointed by the governor for three-year terms. The board meets five
times a year.
In addition to focusing on the skill
development of incumbent workers, MJSP also aims to increase the
capacity of educational institutions. Roughly 80 percent of the
total number of Partnership grants are awarded to MnSCU
institutions, Moe noted, mostly to the system's technical colleges.
Private universities, including for-profit schools, that are
accredited by the U.S. Department of Education through the North
Central Association of Colleges and Schools can do business with
Through its grants, Moe said, MJSP has
been instrumental in expanding new course offerings at a variety of
colleges and universities throughout Minnesota, such as an
accelerated B.S. in nursing program at several locations. "It's
expanding curriculum capacity, it's a blessing for our higher
education institutions, it's needed business training and it's skill
development for incumbent workers," he said.
This year, the state appropriated $4.2
million to MJSP, which has received as much as $20 million in some
past years. Moe noted that the MJSP grant program requires a
business match. For every dollar the state puts into a grant, he
said businesses have provided an average match over the years of
$2.25, mostly through in-kind contributions. The state has invested
$150 million in grants, businesses have contributed well over $350
million and educational institutions have contributed over $50
In addition to the state appropriation,
any excess money in the state's Workforce Development Fund not
needed for DEED's Dislocated Worker Program can be used by MJSP for
incumbent worker training. The Workforce Development Fund is
financed by an assessment on employers of 0.10 percent on all
taxable wages of their employees, which generates over $50 million
MnSCU's technical colleges receive the
lion's share of MJSP training grants.
But Moe said MJSP gets very few training
grant applications from the state's major universities. He remembers
only two over the past 10 years: one from the U of M's College of
Pharmacy and one from its School of Journalism. "You would think the
major universities would be really focused on new ideas and new
technology in manufacturing and other areas," he said, "but that
doesn't appear to be the case." He believes those universities
should play a bigger role in critical skill development.
Demographics might force Minnesota
companies to look at employing ex-offenders. Moe said the
shortage of skilled workers in various parts of the state might open
up job opportunities for people coming out of prison.
MJSP also awards low-income worker grants
aimed at workers earning less than 200 percent of federal poverty
guidelines. Moe described these grants as a voucher program, in
which the Partnership awards up to $200,000 to training
organizations, many of them nonprofits that work with low-income
people of color.
Minnesota is ahead of the nation in
employment and unemployment and in wages and salaries. "We're
doing very, very well," Moe said. "We have pulled out of the
Income disparity in the U.S. is like it
was in the 1920s. "This is extremely dangerous," Moe said. "The
upper class is making high wages; the lower class is making
low-income wages; and the middle class is being squeezed out. It's a
We want high-wage, high-skill jobs in
Minnesota. "That's where the concentration has to be," Moe said.
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