The U.S. Commerce Department has awarded St. Cloud Technical and Community College $2.5 million to build a manufacturing training lab.
The grant, announced Tuesday, will be matched by another $2 million in local funds and will provide regional manufacturers with the training help needed to build the workforce of the future, officials said.
The economic-development grant is expected to create or retain 1,290 workers and to generate nearly $38 million in private investment, as private factories kick in additional aid in the form of equipment, training personnel, apprenticeships and more.
The project will double the size of the college's Energy & Electronics program and should boost opportunities for students to fill high-tech manufacturing jobs, Commerce officials said.
The grant comes at a time when many Minnesota manufacturers complain they cannot find enough skilled-job candidates to replace the thousands of baby boomers at or past retirement age.
Factory-consulting firm Enterprise Minnesota consistently found during surveys that the lack of trained workers had hindered factory growth across the state for several years.
"Ensuring that communities have the trained workforce in place to support business growth is a major focus of the Trump administration," said U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in a statement. "The new Advanced Manufacturing Training Lab at St. Cloud Technical & Community College will provide an enhanced pipeline of talent to fit the needs of manufacturing firms in the St. Cloud area."
U.S. Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn., said the grant will give students the resources and support they need.
"I've long been focused on solutions that work for Minnesotans and all Americans," she said, "and this kind of investment is exactly what we need in the state."