The state of Minnesota awarded $2.56 million in technology training grants as a way to get more underrepresented workers prepared for high-skilled and high-paying jobs.

The five Minnesota Forward Tech Training Competitive Grant recipients will use the funds to train 500 job seekers statewide via a mix of in-person and virtual class settings, one-on-one career counseling, mentoring and hands-on internships.

Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) announced the grants last week, noting the time for tech training is good because such skills remain in high demand and tend to lead to high-wage jobs.

"Obtaining these tech skills can help Minnesotans find employment with family-sustaining wages, which is critical to reducing economic disparities in our state," said DEED Deputy Commissioner Marc Majors in a statement.

The grant recipients are expected to reach out to economically disadvantaged Minnesotans as well as job seekers who identify as people of color.

The recipients are the Jewish Family and Children's Service of Minneapolis ($750,000); National Able Network ($736,913); Minneapolis Community and Technical College ($390,000); Somali Community Resettlement Services of Olmstead County ($385,000); and Workforce Development Inc. ($300,000).

Jobs in computer and mathematical fields pay on average $101,920 per year, which is 57% higher than the average wage in Minnesota, according to 2022 Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics Data.

The new tech training funds are among several state initiatives addressing the skill sets of underserved populations. Past statewide workforce-training efforts have targeted veterans, people with mobility issues, young Minnesotans, and those living in economically challenged neighborhoods.

As part of his state budget proposal, Gov. Tim Walz is calling for $30 million over two years to help train job seekers in the "critical fields" of technology, health care/caring, education, manufacturing and the construction trades.

The Walz administration also proposed $60 million in employment services and skills training over the next two years for "often overlooked" worker populations such as People of Color, who are striving to earn family-sustaining wages.