Minnesota officials announced a new $352,993 Job Skills Partnership grant Wednesday that will help train hundreds of manufacturing employees in northwestern Minnesota over three years.

The customized program, dubbed Manufacturing First, will train 400 employees from Marvin Windows and Doors, Polaris Industries and BayPharma, plus about 30 high school students.

The companies, Pine Technical College and officials from the Minnesota Job Skills Partnership will lead the training initiative. The college will develop a curriculum that focuses on core manufacturing skills, work-based learning, job shadowing and internships. Trainees who complete the program will earn certificates of completion.

The grant offers technical, financial and job training assistance to businesses, communities, educational institutions and workers. It is designed to link educational institutions to businesses with specific training needs.

The grant announced on Wednesday is the latest effort by the state to boost interest in the manufacturing sector, which has been hard-hit this decade because of outsourcing, layoffs, two industry recessions and the deployment of sophisticated robotic machines that require more sophisticated skills.

Last week, state officials said manufacturing had lost 1,600 jobs in Minnesota in April, while construction lost 3,300 jobs. Despite dwindling ranks, a pipeline of fresh recruits will be needed as current workers retire, state officials have said.

Dan McElroy, who chairs the Job Skills Partnership board and heads the Department of Employment and Economic Development, said efforts like the Job Skills grant can help.

"We believe stronger partnerships and better alignment of resources between education and manufacturing businesses will strengthen the industry in the long term," McElroy said.

Dee DePass • 612-673-7725