By Anne Marie Leland, October guest blogger
Minnesota faces the reality that it needs to educate adults to help meet our future workforce needs. According to a recent study conducted by Georgetown University, Help Wanted: Projections of Jobs and Education Requirements through 2018, 70% of Minnesota jobs will require education beyond high school by 2018. Yet today, only 40% of working-age adults in Minnesota have a postsecondary degree as stated in Minnesota Measures: 2009 Report on Higher Education Performance. Minnesota FastTRAC is one strategy to close the 30% postsecondary skills gap in Minnesota — it is among a set of complementary strategies the state will pursue to address the skill/credential gap.
Minnesota FastTRAC is a cross-agency initiative to increase adult postsecondary credential attainment in high demand occupations that lead to family-supporting wages. It is a pathway back-to-work strategy that integrates basic skills education, career-specific training, and support services to meet the needs of low-wage, educationally-underprepared adults. Each local FastTRAC program consists of a series of connected educational and training programs that allow low-skilled adults to advance over time to successively higher levels of education and employment in a given sector, from basic skills education to a postsecondary credential.
By addressing local skills gaps, FastTRAC programs work as effective supply chains for employers in need of skilled labor. This ensures that students have good job prospects once they finish their program. Currently, Minnesota has 27 operating FastTRAC programs throughout the state made up of partnerships of employers, Adult Basic Education, workforce development, and Minnesota State Community and Technical Colleges.
With collaboration among a wide array of public, nonprofit, and business stakeholders, the FastTRAC Initiative is beginning to change the way Minnesota approaches talent development for adults. Moreover, the FastTRAC approach is significantly more successful than traditional postsecondary education/training approaches for nontraditional adult learners: studies, such as Building Bridges to Postsecondary Training for Low-Skill Adults: Outcomes of Washington State’s I-BEST Program from the Community College Research Center, Teacher’s College, Columbia University, show that students in programs like FastTRAC are 29-35% more likely to earn a postsecondary credential.
Minnesota is already hearing from employers that FastTRAC works:
"In the health care industry where the majority of our staff are certified nursing assistants, this FastTRAC program has been a godsend. People who are unsure of their desire to do this type of work can get a feel for what it will be like. Those who perhaps have a limited job history or limited successful job history are coached and shown how to achieve success. Those who are successful now have an avenue to enter advanced training and get a taste of college courses.
This is an indispensable program and the time, money and effort spent on it needs to be maintained. We find that those who have been through this program easily get through their crucial first year of employment, and those who have shown interest in the advanced training are usually 5 plus year employees."
—Deb Barnes, Administrator/Regional Director, Parker Oaks Communities, Elder Care of MN
What are other examples of how more Minnesota adults are successfully pursuing a postsecondary credential?