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Franken Touts Alexandria’s Success in Skilled Job Training

Annie Harman, Reporter, EchoPress (April 15,2014)

U.S. Senator Al Franken, D-Minnesota, who has championed expanded partnerships between businesses and schools to ensure employers have enough trained workers to fill current job openings, made a visit to Alexandria on Monday, April 14.

Franken stopped in to Alexandria Industries for a brief tour. He discussed local work force training efforts, highlighting Alexandria's local efforts in aligning educational institutions with businesses.

"This [partnership] is the most impressive site," said Franken, regarding the alignment between Alexandria Industries and Alexandria Technical and Community College (ATCC). "I cite it all the time on the floor and I believe that we must invest in success."

Franken's Community College to Career Fund Act would help create partnerships between two-year colleges and businesses to train two million Americans for jobs in high-demand industries, such as health care, manufacturing, clean energy and information technology.

This act would create a competitive grant program that will fund partnerships between businesses and two-year colleges to address the skills gap that exists where employers can't find qualified applicants for jobs around the country.

Franken also thanked Superintendent Rick Lahn for District 206's role as a model for the type of curriculum needed to create economic growth. The four academies that will be introduced in the 2014-2015 school year expose teenagers to professions that will allow them to build a skill set before graduation.

"We never want our students to say, 'Why do I have to learn this?'" said Lahn. "We're all pulling the rope in the same direction."

"What I like is this seems to be the culture in this community," said Franken. "Building success, breeds success."

Franken pointed out that Minnesota is among the top three states for the highest amount of student-debt accrued. He encourages letting students know the benefit of entering a two-year college and building on their education while working.

"Parents seem to have a bias against two-year schools," Franken said. "They all think, 'I want my kid to go to a four-year college, get a degree in philosophy and have no job.'"

Franken stated that he hopes his act will encourage other communities to follow suit with the partnerships that exist in Alexandria.

"We want to invest in what's been proven," Franken said. "Proven strategies, proven people, proven companies, and proven institutions. We want to get the best bang for the buck."