Blake Pleschourt enjoys the hand-on experience of South Central College’s Machining Program. Students like Pleschourt, who worked for K & G Manufacturing, will again get an opportunity at on the job training while going to school thanks to a state grant to several area manufacturers. (File photo courtesy of South Central College)

Five businesses in Rice County were among the recipients of nearly $2.9 million in state grants awarded to 60 businesses statewide last week for training meant to reduce the workforce shortage and help employers find skilled workers.

The grants are for employment-based dual training for 664 current and new employees as part of the Minnesota PIPELINE (Private Investment, Public Education, Labor and Industry Experience) program.

Local grant recipients include Daikin Applied Air, K&G Manufacturing and Sage Electrochromics in Faribault, Mechanical Systems in Dundas and Post Consumer Brands in Northfield.

K&G Manufacturing HR employee Marv Urias said the $5,000 in grant funding the company received will help them increase their workforce by allowing them to have an unknown number of employees attend a two-year college so they can be credentialed and certified in machining.

Urias noted the company needs young, experienced machinists and has noticed those professionals have typically already had a job, or the older qualified workers were retiring. He said some high school graduates are unaware of the possibility of a two-year degree in machining, and Urias looks at grant funding as a chance to raise awareness of the education-work opportunity.

During the time students are in school, they will be able to achieve hands-on experience at K&G Manufacturing, a component of the program across the state.

To Urias, grant funding will not solve the company’s workforce issues but is a step in the right direction.

The Minnesota Legislature established the Dual Training Grant Program in 2015, an initiative now administered by the Minnesota Office of Higher Education.

“We are hearing remarkable stories of employees not only completing their education, but also being promoted and prepared for supervisory positions as the result of the PIPELINE program,” said Office of Higher Education Commissioner Dennis Olson in a press release. “Dual Training Grants are a successful model for both the employee and employer.”

The press release states the PIPELINE program is an initiative included in Gov. Tim Walz’s budget that gives dual trainees the chance to earn money while learning and helping businesses meet workforce needs. Advanced manufacturing, agriculture, health care services and information technology are sectors eligible for grant funding.

The grants support 35 employer ongoing investments and training programs in advanced manufacturing, one ag-related, 16 in health care and seven in IT. One grantee will train employees in advanced manufacturing and ag.

This year, 43 grants are being awarded to Greater Minnesota companies, and 17 in the metro area.

According to the release, employees can earn industry-recognized degrees certificates and credentials as part of the program. The Minnesota Office of Higher Education administers the Dual Training Grant program, in collaboration with the Minnesota PIPELINE Program at the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry. Grant funds can cover the cost of dual trainees’ tuition, fees and required materials for related instruction training in PIPELINE Program occupations.

“By pairing on-the-job training with classroom learning, the PIPELINE Program provides skills for workers, while helping employers meet their workforce needs,” said Department of Labor and Industry Commissioner Nancy Leppink in the release. “Apprenticeships and dual training continue to be important training models that successfully assist employers recruit and retain employees. We are excited to continue to support them this eighth round of grants.”

Reach Associate Editor Sam Wilmes at 507-645-1115.

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