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These comments are responses to the Civic Caucus interview with

Rich Wagner, president of Dunwoody College of Technology, Minneapolis
May 29, 2015

Minnesota must keep up with other states
in preparing its workforce to meet the needs of employers

Overview

Minnesota's currently vibrant economy is in a lot of trouble if other states are doing a better job of preparing their workforces to meet the needs of employers, cautions Rich Wagner, president of Dunwoody College of Technology in Minneapolis. Minnesota has always prided itself in having a well-educated and well-trained workforce. But he asks when the last time was that a manufacturing company came to Minnesota and discusses the type of workforce training that drew Volkswagen to locate a new factory in Chattanooga.

Wagner asserts that the skills gap in Minnesota-between jobs available for skilled people and the number of people qualified for those jobs-is a major problem at all skill levels for every industry across the board. He believes training institutions are not producing enough skilled workers to meet employers' needs. He says a critical first step to increase the workforce talent pool is to graduate all of our kids from high school.

Dunwoody takes a different approach from most schools, Wagner says, in hiring its faculty and in helping students who need remedial help. The school hires faculty who have worked in the field in which they'll be teaching. And, unlike most schools, Dunwoody allows students who need remedial help to continue in their regular courses, while they get extra tutoring in small classes. That way, Wagner points out, students can see the relevance of the remedial help to their technical classes.

While Wagner admits that the Twin Cities area is a competitive environment for higher education, he says Dunwoody does not view the two-year colleges in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) system as direct competition. He says the challenge those schools face is their sheer size and bureaucracy. Dunwoody has 1,200 students, while there are 183,000 students enrolled in MnSCU's two-year schools. Dunwoody's tuition is $18,000 a year, more than three times higher than tuition at the MnSCU two-year colleges. But Dunwoody graduates earn an average starting salary of $42,000 a year and the school places 99.3 percent of its graduates in the fields for which they were trained.

For the complete interview summary see: Wagner interview

Response Summary: Readers rated these statements about the topic and about points discussed during the meeting, on a scale of 0 (strongly disagree) to 5 (neutral) to 10 (strongly agree): 

  

1. Topic is of value. The interview summarized today provides valuable information or insight.

2. Further study warranted. It would be helpful to schedule additional interviews on this topic.

3. We risk losing to states matching skills, needs. Despite today's vibrant economy and its enviable high-quality workforce, Minnesota risks losing out to other states and nations that are working more aggressively to match workers' skills with employers' need.

4. All must respond to intense competition. All leaders and institutions in Minnesota, both nongovernmental and governmental, must accept and respond to intense competition for human talent.

5. Problem compounded by exodus of retirees. The problem is accentuated because more Minnesota residents are retiring than entering the workforce.

6. Too many lack needed skills. Moreover, far too many persons of working age lack skills that would qualify them for available jobs.

7. Encourage technical training early. We should encourage more students to take technical training early, get a job, and later work toward a higher degree.

8. Make remedial ed co-requisite. We should make remedial education (e.g. math, writing) for poorly-prepared high school grads a co-requisite, not a pre-requisite, so students obtain remedial education that is directly focused on--and offered simultaneously with--their technical training.

Response Distribution:

Strongly disagree

Moderately disagree

Neutral

Moderately agree

Strongly agree

Total Responses

1. Topic is of value.

0%

0%

0%

50%

50%

8

2. Further study warranted.

0%

0%

13%

75%

13%

8

3. We risk losing to states matching skills, needs.

0%

0%

13%

75%

13%

8

4. All must respond to intense competition.

0%

0%

0%

50%

50%

8

5. Problem compounded by exodus of retirees.

0%

0%

0%

63%

38%

8

6. Too many lack needed skills.

0%

13%

0%

50%

38%

8

7. Encourage technical training early.

0%

0%

13%

63%

25%

8

8. Make remedial ed co-requisite.

0%

0%

13%

63%

25%

8

Individual Responses:

Scott Halstead (10) (5) (10) (10) (10) (10) (10) (7.5)
8. Make remedial ed co-requisite. We need to offer vocational/technical education and career counseling in high school that identifies individuals for various pursuits, properly prepares students for the next level and shares the burden for not achieving proper outcomes.

Bruce Lundeen (7.5) (7.5) (5) (7.5) (7.5) (2.5) (10) (10)
1. Topic is of value. Pointing out the need for career and technical education (CTE) in high schools is being said frequently.

2. Further study warranted. It would be interesting to hear from MnSCU staff in this discussion.

6. Too many lack needed skills. I believe the willingness to work is understated, and the rewards for working. Credentials are overstated. The real problem is a lack of motivation of the students as a body. I do not think the ambition as a group is present.

Kevin Edberg (10) (7.5) (7.5) (10) (10) (7.5) (7.5) (7.5)
3. We risk losing to states matching skills, needs. We are all always at risk. Vigilance is good. Build from strengths, and make sure we evidence the value that has been created by past investments in human capital, and not simply create fear that "we're losing".

6. Too many lack needed skills. Mr. Wagner confirms that lack of wage growth has also been a significant deterrent. As I have written several times before, the labor market will respond to price (wage) signals.

Wayne Jennings (10) (9) (9) (9) (9) (10) (9) (10)
The co-remedial approach sounds very effective. I agree with him that too many high school youth don’t know about technical training and we’ve brainwashed them with "Everything is about college prep." Many high school students are not prepared by disposition to pursue more academics; hence drop out or rusticate in their high school courses.

Paul Hauge (9) (9) (7) (9) (8) (8) (7) (9)

Mina Harrigan (7) (10) (7) (10) (10) (8) (5) (5)

Chuck Lutz (8) (7) (9) (9) (8) (8) (9) (9)

Tom Spitznagle (10) (9) (9) (10) (8) (10) (9) (8)
Interesting contrast between the educational results attributable to Dunwoody – a school competing in the free market by providing education that must prove valuable to its students thereby earning Dunwoody the revenue to survive and grow – and public, taxpayer supported MNSCU that does not have the same level of competitive market pressure and does not appear to be serving students as effectively as Dunwoody despite its massive budget.

 

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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

 

 

 


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

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