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These comments are responses to the Civic Caucus interview with

Peter Frosch of GREATER MSP
January 8, 2016

Regionís potential as global economic leader threatened
by current and future workforce shortage


Just as the economy of the Twin Cities region, especially in its key sectors, is positioned to advance to a place of global leadership, the size of its labor force is expected to stagnate, according to Peter Frosch of GREATER MSP. Not being able to meet the workforce needs of the region's businesses could result in lost opportunity, he warns. His organization has forecast that by 2020, the region could be short 100,000 skilled workers. He asserts that the shortage is already being felt today in occupations such as high tech, engineering and financial management. In those fields, there is already an extremely tight labor force in the region.

In 2013, GREATER MSP developed, for the first time in the Twin Cities region, a regional economic development strategy. Frosch stresses that some 1,000 corporate leaders, public officials and other leaders were involved in developing the strategy, which is built on three approaches: (1) telling our story more effectively; (2) building on our global sectors of strength; and (3) prioritizing talent. He notes that human capital is the region's number one competitive advantage and that not every other region in the country competes on its people power, as we do.

But Frosch cautions that what the region and the state have done in the past to create the workforce we have today is not necessarily what we should be thinking about doing in the future. He points out that the workforce and the competitive landscape are both fundamentally changing. It's a given, he says, that the looming labor-force shortage means we must ensure that all people in Minnesota are educated to their full potential, engaged in the economy and moving up the career ladder.

He also highlights the importance of migration and says we must work even harder to retain the people we have, even though we've historically done that quite well. And it's critical that we significantly improve our somewhat weak performance in attracting talented people to live and work in the region and state. He says the case to be made for attracting talent to the Twin Cities is compelling: here people seeking opportunities and their partners can both have great careers and a world-class quality of life that they can afford. There aren't many other places where all of those goals are as likely to be met.

For the complete interview summary see: Frosch interview

Individual Responses:

Vici Oshiro
Very mixed feelings about this interview. Yes, we need to focus on the issues covered, but we also need to consider those currently unemployed even though they may be good workers with years of experience. Why can't they find jobs? This [view is] informed by difficulty a member of the family is experiencing, i.e., I'm prejudiced.

Read someplace on web earlier today (MinnPost maybe?) that a significant proportion of non-whites are relatively new to area and do not speak English well. That's good news because many of these people are probably smart, well-educated and are likely to prosper once they learn the language and figure out how to cope with our culture. Is it still true that immigrants from Africa have higher rate of college graduation than Americans?

Tom Spitznagle
Interesting situation. Itís always worthwhile to try to understand and anticipate workforce needs, compare those projections to the qualities of the labor supply and develop plans to fill in the gaps. There are many complex variables (many uncontrollable) involved in trying to project forward the skills needed, what can attract or retain skilled workers to Minnesota, how to structure educational opportunities, etc. This makes reliable projections especially difficult.

The Alexandria model involving cooperation between local schools and industry operates at a micro level and seems to have been very effective. Perhaps thatís the model that needs to be replicated for various industries as opposed to state level forecasts and plans which would seem to be much more complex to accurately develop and implement.

Does MN DEED research many of the same issues as Greater MSP? If so, do the two groups interact with each other?

Dennis Carlson
I couldn't agree more. I would add to the conversation by including PreK-12 teachers and educational administrators to the job shortage list. We are already experiencing a severe shortage of substitute teachers, a lack of science and math teachers, and a lack of experienced educational leaders in key positions like principal and superintendent. The recent Minneapolis superintendent search is an indicator of that shortage. We are putting inexperienced people in these key positions and the lack of experienced candidates available is a result of the "silver tsunami" of baby boomers retiring (like myself, I might add) in great numbers. I recently heard an estimate that 50% of our superintendents will be retiring in the next decade. Do we have quality people in line to replace them? I don't think so. That really presents a serious problem for us as a strong education state.

The cost of higher education and the inability of community colleges to quickly change staffing needs to meet the skilled worker shortage are also huge concerns. Every effort must be made to increase early college credit at the high school level and begin career exploration at the middle school level. Our educational curriculum, state standards, and testing are all aimed at the preparation of students for 4-year college degrees. Not everyone will go to a 4-year college, many [who do] will not finish and millions of dollars are diminished in value (not entirely wasted) through accumulated debt with no diploma. Not everyone needs a 4-year degreeólook at the upcoming job shortage and most will need a 2-year degree with a marketable skill.

Finally, I think we undersell the quality of life in the metro area. I live in Blaine. On my morning walks I can see eagles, deer, fox, pileated woodpeckers, loons, an occasional coyote and people who I meet that come from all over the world. Housing in my immediate neighborhood runs from the affordable $160,000 (a condo across the street form me) to a range of $1 million or more on the Lakes development. We live 20 minutes from downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul. We love the culture in the area - art museums, theater venues, music venues, as well as a multitude of wonderful shopping and eating choices. All of this is located in a beautiful Midwestern area with strong values, an excellent PreK-12 educational system, and a wealth of good communities to choose from if you wish to raise a family. Not bad.

Wayne Jennings
Peter Frosch paints a rosy picture of the Twin Cities area, and thatís good and I like his 3 initiatives. However, we shouldnít spend much time patting ourselves on the back because we might overlook needed improvements. For example, our area has great recreation, arts and sports venues at many levels. Still, various daily aggravations like rough roads [are] encountered every day going to and from work. Some of these [aggravations] arenít earth shaking, but for a real classy area [they] canít be ignored.

I suggest new ways of training for engineers and some other professionals. It takes too long and costs too much with traditional programs. We need to break down the specific competences and then find efficient means for their accomplishment. That could reduce time by 50% and reduce dropout rates. Thereís too much wasted coursework, poor timing of instruction and lack of a laser-like focus on aims. We should do more efficient just-in-time training and on going updating in areas of need to allow people to pursue or switch careers. We must change the hegemony of the present higher education that resists change for more efficient approaches to careers.

There are far too many students in elementary and secondary education being bamboozled about going to college as though they were aimed for heaven on earth. Many students wonít make it adequately through their boring courses and arenít qualified to attend largely academic [courses] and take many useless courses in colleges, even [in] community colleges. We have far too many low income and minority students plus others marking time and not gaining competencies needed for life and careers. High schools need work. For example, why do we continue the practice of teachers on assembly lines of 5-6 classes a day for 150 students per day? It doesnít work well and is inhumane. Tragically, it works even less well with hi-risk non-academically oriented students and most flounder.

In short, while I enjoyed reading the interview and learned from what he said, Iíd like Frosch to think even wider and bigger about our community and career needs.

Scott Halstead
Education: Have we lost [our] way with educating [our] young people to attain a college education while not considering that many young peopleís talents are in the trades and technical [work]? We have a net loss of approximately 16,000 college age students annually to other states and they don't return. We provide a good K-12 education and get zero return. That is a tremendous loss that needs thorough analysis and changes made to make it a net increase.

State Legislation and governance: We have gone from one of the most effective states to mediocre. The business leaders need to keep their wallets in their pockets when it comes to campaign financing. We need [to] hold legislators and the executive branch accountable for results. We are throwing large sums of [money] out the window (MNSURE, 14 mph light rail transit, high speed rail transit, etc.). Tax structure needs to be reformed.

Compensation: Are the business leadersí compensation packages excessive while they are limiting employee compensation?


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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.

  John S. Adams, David Broden, Audrey Clay, Janis Clay, Pat Davies, Bill Frenzel, Paul Gilje (Executive Director), 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




The Civic Caucus, 01-01-2008
2104 Girard Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55405.
Dan Loritz, chair, 612-791-1919   ~   Paul A. Gilje, coordinator, 952-890-5220.

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