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Getting the employer/employee collaboration right will be one of the keys to making PIPELINE work. So will patience and persistence. Germany has been doing this for generations. Apprenticeship-style higher education, putting students from their early teens forward on fixed pathways set by schools, businesses and labor unions, is part of the German culture.
Minnesota’s higher-education culture has been more about individual freedom. Students, study what you like. Students and families, you’re largely on your own to pay for it. Educators, design your courses as you see fit. Employers, hire whomever you can find — and grouse all you like that your state tax dollars aren’t providing the workforce you need.
That culture may have served Minnesota adequately in the 20th century. Its limitations have become evident in the 21st. High student debt loads are hobbling young lives and the economy. Baby boomer retirements are threatening to turn today’s labor supply pinch into a stranglehold. Money is too scarce, and too mobile, for Minnesota to afford a yawning skills gap between what college grads know and what employers want them to know.
Easing this state’s higher-ed hurt may ultimately require new money and new institutions. But it needs to start with new thinking. Election campaigns are fine opportunities to peddle new ideas. This year, PIPELINE could be one of them.
Lori Sturdevant, an editorial writer and columnist, is at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Opinion section is produced by the Editorial Department to foster discussion about key issues. The Editorial Board represents the institutional voice of the Star Tribune and operates independently of the newsroom.