Out-of-work Minnesotans and others seeking more training or certification in high-demand jobs will be able to take free online classes through a new program underwritten by the state.
The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) has partnered with California-based Coursera Inc. to offer training and coursework from more than 200 schools around the world, including the University of Minnesota.
It is the first time the state has taken an active role in training so many people at once.
"It's a relief effort response in response to COVID-19, but I have no doubt it's going to shape our thinking about online learning and how we prepare a 21st -century workforce," Hamse Warfa, DEED's deputy commissioner of workforce development, said in an interview.
DEED officials said that any state resident, including undocumented workers, can take advantage of 3,800 classes related to a broad range of industries as well as topics of personal interest or self-improvement.
Minnesotans who have applied for unemployment insurance this year have already started receiving instructions about how to enroll in the program. While aimed at those who lost jobs or wages as a result of the pandemic, the courses are open to anyone seeking to enhance their job prospects and learn new skills.
Enrollment is open through Sept. 30 at CareerForceMN.com/Coursera. Courses will be free through March 31, and they will be available for a fee after that.
The state will spend less than $250,000, Warfa said, and will not limit the number of applicants. Access to the classes through the Coursera platform typically costs $410 a year, he said.
The online-learning program was designed specifically for the state and eventually will enable nonprofits, businesses and other organizations to use it for training, Warfa said.
Coursera is a global online-learning platform that was launched in 2012 by two Stanford computer-science professors. The company has been marketing its platform to states and local agencies as a way to help those who have lost jobs because of the pandemic.
It has formed similar arrangements with state governments in Illinois, Arizona and Oklahoma, Coursera's Chief Executive Jeff Maggioncalda told the financial news channel Cheddar.
The Coursera platform can be used on mobile phones and is available in multiple languages. For those without internet access at home, the courses can be downloaded and accessed offline.
Students can earn certifications from Google, IBM and Cisco in such areas as cloud architecture, IT support and SAS programming to prepare for entry-level technology jobs.
At the University of Minnesota, coursework includes specialized study in such areas as health care, human resource management and information systems as well as a broad array of individual courses, including creative problem-solving and introduction to human behavioral genetics.
There's also room for personal interests, including languages, arts and humanities. Coursera's most popular course, called the Science of Well-Being, is taught by a professor at Yale University.