At Anderson Automatics in Brooklyn Park, high-tech, computer-controlled machines turn out precise pieces and machined components for the medical device industry, but finding highly-skilled workers to program and operate those machines isn't so easy.
"It's kind of a shortage in our whole industry is finding that top person for manufacturing and engineering these high–end machines," said Bruce Williams, Anderson Automatic's vice president of sales and operations.
Hennepin Technical College in Brooklyn Park aims to fix that problem with a fast-track career training program in manufacturing that's geared to arm students with the specific skills they need to fill those job openings.
"We've really done a good job I think in the last few years aligning to support the medical device manufacturing sector, companies that are doing a lot of research and development in the area," said Joe Mulford, dean of manufacturing at Hennepin Technical College.
The two-semester program, catered for both young and older returning students, focuses on intensive classroom work, but it also includes specialized lab work and on-the-job training, so students are learning and working with the exact computer-controlled machines that they will encounter in the work world.
With a three-year federal grant from the Department of Labor, the fast-track biotech manufacturing program started in 2010. So far 220 students have enrolled in the program, and 71 students have completed the program and have secured jobs in the field.
Senator Al Franken toured Hennepin Tech this week and gathered a roundtable of local education and manufacturing leaders to learn more about the programs and what's needed to get people placed into the local job openings.
Franken said he believes there's a case to be made for funding if the programs are having the desired results.
"The right kind of funding, the right kind of programs, the most efficient programs that don't waste any money, the things that get people to work, so they're not collecting unemployment, but they are working and paying taxes, that's what we want," said Franken.
Alexandra Renslo reporting
Wednesday, January 18, 2012