For years, a state program has successfully helped employers upgrade worker skills. Could it do more to help minority businesses?
By Ibrahim Hirsi, MinnPost
In March, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) awarded more than $2.8 million in grants to fund projects aimed at retaining and upgrading the skills of thousands of private companies’ employees across the state.
The project is part of the Minnesota Job Skills Partnership (MJSP), a decades-old program administered by DEED that provides Minnesota-based businesses and partnering educational institutions year-round grants three to four times a year.
In the most recent round, the program gave money to more than a dozen projects that will provide professional development to nearly 3,000 employees, including Wilson Tool International and Anoka-Ramsey College; Kraus-Anderson Construction and Anoka-Ramsey Community College; Imagine! Print Solutions and Hennepin Technical College; and Ebenezer Management Services and Minnesota State College-Southeast Technical.
“The goal is that the business has a trained workforce … as their technology develops or as they bring new workers into their workplace,” explained DEED Commissioner Katie Clark Sieben, who left the agency last week and was replaced by Shawntera Hardy.
And yet, though the program has awarded tens of millions in grants over the last 33 years, some business leaders of color say the state’s efforts around MJSP are also typical when it comes to the state’s efforts — or lack thereof — when it comes to making sure eligible minority-owned businesses are taking advantage of such opportunities.
“It’s a great program,” said Ravi Norman, CEO of the Minneapolis-based Thor Construction, one of the largest African American-owned businesses in the nation, but “I think there needs to be probably some enhanced intentionality on the marketing.”
Ibrahim Hirsi reports on immigrant communities, social issues, marginalized groups and people who work on making a difference in the lives of others. A graduate from the University of Minnesota, he interned for Newsday and has written for multiple publications in Minnesota.
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