CAREER PATHWAYS others across the country, when – over the course of several decades – high school and college graduates were not being trained to step in for retiring manufacturing workers. EDUCATION AND INDUSTRY TEAM UP TO SOLVE “SKILLS GAP” I n 2014, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) put forth by the U.S. Department of Labor was signed into law by Congress. Its goal: to help job seekers access employment, education, training and support services to succeed in the labor market and to match employers with the skilled workers they need to compete in the global economy. Partnerships between education and industry – training students for the jobs that employers are hiring for – became key to the WIOA’s success. Vadnais Heights Economic Development Corporation (VHEDC) took a lead role in connecting local manufacturers with secondary and post-secondary educational institutions, specifically to address the “skills gap.” This disparity had become a serious economic issue for Vadnais Heights’ manufacturers and 36 Vadnais Heights Business Guide & Community Profile The manufacturing industry contributes $48.2 billion to the state economy and accounts for 16 percent of Minnesota’s gross domestic product. In 2016, workers took home $20.3 billion in wages from Minnesota manufacturing jobs, the second highest amount among the state’s business sectors. Vadnais Heights has an estimated 1,940 manufacturing jobs city-wide – approximately 24 percent of all jobs. VHEDC Executive Director Ling Becker says, “Manufacturing is kind of the bread and butter of our community, and we want to continue being a manufacturing community. Our Board feels strongly about our investment of time and money in the workforce development initiatives of the White Bear Lake Area School District and Century College.” THE CAREER PATHWAYS PROGRAM IS BORN In 2015, the VHEDC created a Workforce Action Committee made up of key players from businesses and schools; the White Bear Lake Area School District ISD 624 was awarded a $250,000 grant from United Way to create a Manufacturing Pathway at South Campus High School; funds were allotted for a Career & Employment Navigator for the students. The high school technology instructor, the navigator and Du Fresne Manufacturing in Vadnais Heights created a job-shadowing program for students. Students toured MME group, SCHWING America, Structural Wood, Herold Precision Metals, Innovize and other companies. Jim Stephan, Vice President of Sales & Marketing at Du Fresne Manufacturing, developed the job-shadowing program with Technology Education Instructor Delroy Nyren. According to Stephan (when the program was being developed in 2015), “Recent statistics have shown – year after year in Minnesota – approximately 60,000 students will graduate from high school with 65 percent going on to some type of post-secondary education. That means roughly 20,000 high school graduates will be looking for some type of employment come June of each year. Currently, there are over 6,000 open manufacturing jobs in Minnesota that our industry is struggling to fill due to lack of experience, work ethic, behavioral competencies and not knowing these well-paying careers are available to them.” At the beginning of the 2015 – 16 school year, Nyren “broke out” the new manufacturing equipment the school district purchased with the grant money for a two-semester course at South Campus: Manufacturing and Applied Engineering. In 2016 – 17 school year, that course was offered at both South and North campuses, and an advanced yearlong course – Precision Manufacturing – was offered at South Campus. After completing the program, students earn level-one and level-two credentials from the National Institute for Metalworking Skills.