Proven Formula for Individual and Employer Economic Success

The Minnesota Green Bio-medical Device program at Anoka Technical College is already a successful collaboration.

By Sarah Patnode

What do an afghanistan/iraq War veteran, a mother of two children, a high school graduate and a 36 year expert in manufacturing all have in common?

at first glance, this may seem like a trick question. however, all worked and learned side-by-side in a program comprised of a public and private manufacturing fast track 80-hour certificate course created to meet an urgent employment need. in Minnesota, manufacturing is projected to have approximately 2,500 vacant jobs as a result of workers not having the required skill-set.

dr. steven rosenstone, Chancellor of the Minnesota state College and Universities (MnsCU) says, "i hear from companies across Minnesota about a dire need for workers, particularly in the manufacturing, biotech and health care sectors. the painful reality is that many of the 167,000 Minnesotans without jobs don't have the education needed for the new economy. and by 2018, 70 percent of all jobs in Minnesota will require some postsecondary education." (Star Tribune)

Michael dougherty, vice Chancellor of advancement at MnsCU, participated in extensive statewide listening sessions where business and industry professionals revealed that their evolving workforce needs require graduates with:

More advanced technical and communication skills

  • Greater capacity for critical and imaginative thinking
  • Increased ability to work collaboratively in teams
  • More intellectual agility
  • Preparation that is closer to the world of practice

Solution in action

Approximately three years ago, Anoka-area precision sheet metal companies such as Pentair technical Products, e.J. ajax, Micron Metalworks, olympic steel, dayton rogers and Cummins and Leaf industries identified a need for prepared workers and reached out to anoka technical College for assistance in creating a new program. "there was a need and nowhere to train people. the companies came to us, helped us create a training curriculum and introduced us to our partners," says nick graff, director of the newly designated advanced technology Center (atC) at anoka technical College. the atC includes Machine trades, Precision sheet Metal, Welding and Mechanical drafting (Cad).

as meetings were held and new relationships were forged, including participation and collaboration with MnsCU, deed, various Workforce Centers and the Blue/green alliance Foundation, the program began to take shape. Numerous sizable donations of equipment and materials-not to mention grant money targeted to put unemployed individuals back to work and improve the skillsets of incumbent and temporary workers- started to roll in, totaling almost $2 million.

Seasoned industry instructors were hired, an advisory board was organized and after numerous challenges were addressed and met, the program began to gain footing. Today Anoka Technical College is the only site that offers this program in the Upper Midwest.Student/Company Benefits

Over the past year and a half, through two separate grants and a dozen classes, approximately 130 people have been hired out of the program and numerous incumbent workers have enhanced their skill sets and of course, their paychecks. And the numbers and success stories will continue to grow as the industry and manufacturing in general continues its notable rebound.

"Bridging the skills gap is a major focus for the department. We measured the great success of the Precision Sheet Metal Program and are using that formula to build programs within other industries to meet the needs of a changing workforce," says Jamie Barthel, executive director of the Professional and Workforce Training Department at Anoka Technical College and Anoka–Ramsey Community College.

Formula to Build a Future

The Minnesota Green Bio-Medical Device Program was created by utilizing the lessons learned from the Precision Sheet Metal Program, the collaboration of business and community partners and the impact of getting people back to work sooner. With companies like Medtronic, St. Jude Medical, Boston Scientific and Starkey Hearing Technologies, Minnesota has a large demand for medical device and biomedical skilled workers. According to Minnesota-based, biomedical careers are projected to grow 72 percent between 2012 and 2019 in Minnesota, which is consistent with the national outlook.

"The medical devices sector is a vital industry in Minnesota, employing more than 29,000 people, the highest number per capita in the United States," said DEED commissioner Mark Phillips. (Star Tribune)

The Minnesota Green Bio-Medical Device Program is a partnership between the Blue Green Alliance Foundation, Anoka County Workforce Center and Minnesota State College and Universities (MnSCU).

The participants in the program received the combined education and skills of green/energy conservation basics, baseline critical technical skills and the comprehensive knowledge that comprises the medical device certificates listed below.

Medical Device Essentials Certificate

  • Fundamentals of the Medical Device Industry
  • Working in a Regulated Environment
  • Technical Writing for Results in Biomedical
  • Advanced Medical Device Certificate
  • Principles of cGMP for Biomedical Operations
  • Cardiovascular Physiologic and Related Medical Devices
  • Creativity and innovation for the life SCienCeS/mediCal deviCe induStry

At graduation, companies such as Pentair Technical Products, Safety Speed Manufacturing and GMI Inc. were present to connect with students interested in opportunities for future employment. "The interaction of companies and students is set up as a reverse job fair, company representatives make a presentation to the students about their respective business, the type of work they do, and current job opportunities. Students then meet one-on-one with the company reps for an informal interview and to present their resume. It's a nice relaxed atmosphere for the students to showcase their new and existing skills to the potential employers", says Jon Olson, director of training for Biomed and Med Device programs at Anoka Ramsey Community College and Anoka Technical College. This is the only certificate-level training program of its kind offered in Minnesota; students can expect to earn $12–$16 per hour.

Lessons Learned

The Precision Sheet Metal and Minnesota Green Bio- Medical Device Programs formula is proven and now provides a successful blueprint for building skills and putting people back to work quickly in Minnesota. The next industries and/or career tracks being explored to use this model are Healthcare, Information Technology and Energy Management.