Minnesota philanthropic leaders are about to tackle a critical workforce problem, namely the disconnect between the job skills that employers need and the opportunities for Minnesotans to get those skills.

Spurred by reports indicating that two-thirds of the Twin Cities jobs will require skills training by 2018, as well as reports showing large racial disparities in employment, a network of foundations has decided to flex its muscle behind both.

They've formed the Twin Cities Workforce Innovation Network, a collaboration of about 10 foundations and the Greater Twin Cities United Way.

"Our future workforce is our current workforce, and they are being underutilized," said Carrie Jo Short, director of grants and program services for Minnesota Philanthropy Partners, one of the participants.

While Minnesota is making progress preparing high school students for the workforce, adults who have graduated or who don't have high school degrees don't have pathways to training that would produce higher wages and higher satisfaction for employers, organizers said.

Those workers, particularly low-income minority workers, will be a key focus of the initiatives, said Eric Muschler, the McKnight Foundation program officer for regions/communities.

"We want to weave together the resources for low-income, low-skilled adults and move them into career pathways," he said.

The network has pulled together $3 million so far to start the process. It hired Bryan Lindsley, the executive director of the Governor's Workforce Development Council, to direct the project. He will begin next week.

After an official launch in the fall, the network expects to work with educational institutions, job training programs, and other organizations to connect workers with training programs, said Muschler. It will also provide grants to training projects that have shown promise, he said.

"It's about addressing disparities,' said Short, "but also addressing what employers need."