Minnesota examines itself as a state of manufacturing in 2014

By KBJR News 1

May 12, 2014 Updated May 12, 2014 at 6:10 PM CDT

Eveleth, MN (NNCNOW.com) - Now in its 6th year, Enterprise Minnesota's statewide survey of the state of Minnesota's manufacturing sector has once again highlighted what officials say are the top concerns, and positive trends, in 2014.

"We spent two generations, I think, telling people that manufacturing wasn't a future great career," says Bob Kill, President of Enterprise Minnesota.

Kill says as the general attitude toward a manufacturing career shifts into the positive with promises of relatively higher pay than other sectors, there are still misunderstandings clouding forward progress.

One area Kill says isn't clear is the shift in needed workforce skills from fewer hands–on methods to more computers and automation in the workplace.

"It's in every job in manufacturing today," says Kill.

In the past, Kill says manufacturers weren't as focused on name branding as they were the final product. Now, Kill says marketing plays a critical role in the stateside, and overseas, success of a manufacturer.

"Getting more visible—that's part of why we do this survey, is to bring more visibility to manufacturing," says Kill, "but we also promote that manufacturers themselves come out and get more visible."

Kill says more marketing also means more attention from those in the young, skilled state workforce, which is critical for smaller cities in Greater Minnesota where manufacturing jobs can be the lifeblood of a community.

"They all seem like they want to go to a larger community," says Kill, referencing a problem that virtually all small cities/ towns and communities face, "so we need to make attractive careers to keep them in these manufacturing companies."

To have a successful strategic business plan, Kill says manufacturers need a workforce plan that connects students to up–to–date machinery and programs in the state's manufacturing sector.

On the Eveleth campus of Mesabi Range College, Dean of Student Affairs David Dailey says their Applied Learning Institute is pairing 11th and 12th graders with college manufacturing courses.

"And then hopefully they transition to Mesabi Range College and are able to fulfill their technical program requirements," says Dailey, standing in the midst of state-of-the-art machinery found throughout the Iron Range's mining and manufacturing sector, "and graduate with a diploma or an AAS degree so they can get those high–paying, high–skilled manufacturing jobs."

Dailey says the number of students enrolled in their manufacturing–based programs has seen major growth since its single–digit numbers in the early 2000s.

Kill says the reputation of U.S.–based manufacturers is also bringing manufacturing jobs back stateside.

69 percent of Minnesota's manufacturing companies asked to participate in this year's survey participated.

Billy Wagness
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