Reforming Education To Fill Technical Jobs In Minnesota

“At a time of high unemployment, we actually have over 2 million high-wage jobs that are going unfilled,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan told a town hall meeting at Irondale High School in New Brighton on Friday. Secretary Duncan was joined by Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton. U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar and Minnesota Department of Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius. “These are jobs that can’t be exported that we can’t fill. We need to challenge ourselves in the education community. What are we doing to prepare our students not for the jobs of yesterday but for the jobs of tomorrow?”

“We used to lead the world in college graduation rates, now we’re 16th,” said Duncan. “We’ve stagnated, and other countries have passed us by. They’re out investing, they’re out-innovating, and you wonder why we’re struggling economically.”

Minnesota leading in education innovation

The Education Secretary’s trip to Minnesota was meant to highlight the state’s nation-leading education reforms and discuss future efforts to support students. He also hosted a townhall meeting at South High School in Minneapolis. The Department of Education recently awarded Minnesota with a total of $88 million in competitive grants aimed at rewarding innovation. They included a Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge, Investing in Innovation (i3) and Promise Neighborhood grants.

“It’s more than a responsibility, it’s a moral and economic imperative that we find ways to help each child reach his or her highest potential,” said Cassellius.

Senator Klobuchar shared that, despite the economic recession, there are job openings around Minnesota, albeit that require technical experience, and science, math or engineering skills. Irondale high school is on the cutting edge of providing such technical training.

“Looking at this as a high school degree is not just a diploma on a wall,” said Klobuchar. “It’s about actually getting a job. People are learning to run high tech equipment that makes medical devices; they’re learning computer systems that run assembly lines. We need to be a country that makes things again, that invents things, that exports to the world.”

Jacob Wheeler

In addition to shooting videos for The UpTake, Jacob Wheeler is a contributing editor at the progressive political magazine In These Times, publishes the Glen Arbor Sun in his native Michigan, and authored "Between Light and Shadow," a recent book about the Guatemalan adoption industry. Wheeler's stories have appeared in such magazines as the Utne Reader, Earth Island Journal, Rotarian and Teaching Tolerance magazine, and newspapers including the San Francisco Chronicle and Christian Science Monitor. He speaks fluent Spanish, German and Danish.

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