A consortium of Minnesota and Wisconsin colleges and universities has tapped Video Guidance, a provider of video conferencing, telepresence and audiovisual technologies and services, to furnish the consortium’s industrial-skills training program with video conferencing to connect workers, companies and educators.
The 360° Center of Excellence, a Bemidji State University-led consortium which includes nine two-year colleges in Minnesota, will share a $13.1 million Department of Labor grant to Central Lakes College, Pine Technical College and St. Cloud Technical and Community College to strengthen and expand Minnesota’s ability to develop a highly skilled workforce for manufacturing-related careers.
Since 2007, thousands of manufacturing workers in Minnesota have either lost their jobs due to foreign trade or are in danger of job loss, according to Video Guidance. However, despite the job losses, manufacturers in the region report “a severe skills gap” among workers. The companies said there are plenty of lower-skilled workers, but high-skilled technicians in advanced manufacturing disciplines are scarce.
To attack that trend, Central Lakes College of Staples and Brainerd, along with Pine Technical College of Pine City and St. Cloud Technical and Community College, and other schools in the Minnesota State College and University System formed the consortium.
In 2012, the consortium created the Regional Advanced Manufacturing Re-Training program, which seeks to increase the high skilled, high-wage employment opportunities for more than 3,900 workers in Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Playing a central role in the overall education program is Video Guidance, which will deploy a new telepresence video conferencing system that connects companies and colleges to upgrade the skills of the manufacturing workforce.
As part of that program, the colleges’ manufacturing faculty, in cooperation with Adult Basic Education and College Developmental Education personnel, will offer introductory, core manufacturing courses to expand the educated labor pool, Video Guidance said. In addition, enhanced online courses will focus on the areas of machining, metals, plastics and composites, automation technology and rapid prototyping.
“Our contextualized and modularized solutions offer the greatest opportunity for increased learning,” said Marlene Mixa, Central Lakes College’s director of strategic grant initiatives. “The use of video will eliminate distance and time barriers and enhance the learning experience, ultimately leading to better employment outcomes,” she said.
Video Guidance is “very excited to work with Central Lakes College and the consortium to help educate those needing the new skills to acquire good manufacturing jobs,” said Michael Werch, the company’s president and CEO. “Video conferencing has revolutionized the way people connect and, as a result, educational institutions and organizations everywhere are making visual communications a strategic priority.”
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