Training workers is focus of omnibus jobs bill


The $234.86 million omnibus jobs and economic development bill unveiled Tuesday has a focus on training workers for better futures.

“This bill’s whole focus is on a healthy Minnesota economy,” said Rep. Tim Mahoney (DFL-St. Paul), the sponsor of HF729.

Amendments to the bill are scheduled to be offered Thursday before the House Jobs and Economic Development Finance and Policy Committee votes on the bill. Mahoney chairs the committee.

Among the highlights of the proposed bill is the establishment of the job-based education and apprenticeship program for manufacturing industries. The goal is to create skilled workers for current and projected manufacturing openings.

“One of the problems that we hear constantly from businesses is that their new hires are not trained well enough,” Mahoney said. “This is an initiative to fill that need.”

Offered as HF1391 by Rep. Jason Isaacson (DFL-Shoreview), the provision would direct the Department of Labor and Industry to collaborate with Alexandria Community and Technical College, Central Lakes College, Century College and Hennepin Technical College to develop the program for manufacturing industries that integrate academic instruction and job-related learning in the workplace. The idea is to meet the needs of an employer with a customized training program. A report would be due the Legislature by January 2015, including recommendations whether the program should be expanded if it’s working, or scrapped if not.

The program would be employee-centered, whereby the student would take few classes at the school and also get training at the manufacturer’s site. A web-based skilled manufacturing job-seeker hub would be created to match employer needs with job seekers.

The department is to actively recruit program participants from targeted groups, including individuals with disabilities, dislocated workers, veterans, state assistance recipients and previously incarcerated persons.

In the areas of employment, economic development and workforce development, the bill would:

  • require the Department of Employment and Economic Development to conduct a yearly cost of living study, adjusted for family size, by county;
  • establish an 11-member trade policy advisory group to advise and assist the Legislature and governor in assessing trade agreement impacts on the state’s economy;
  • direct DEED to establish three new trade offices in key foreign markets; and
  • require DEED to work with the Office of Higher Education and local workforce centers to publish labor market analysis supply and demand reports. The reports would include information on occupations with high current and projected job growth, schooling needed for such jobs and the expected number of graduates in industry-recognized credential and degree programs.

The bill also contains a number of fee changes, such as elevator permit and inspection fees, and plumbing fees.