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- Skills Mismatch
As part of a larger jobs and workforce development bill, the Minnesota House of Representatives approved $5 million in state general revenue to support Fast TRAC, an integrated learning program for low-skill adult learners to build basic skills and earn occupational certificates and credits that can be used towards other programs to move them through the educational pipeline faster and further.
The program was created through The Joyce’s Foundation’s Shifting Gears Initiative in partnership with the Department of Employment and Economic Development.
Minnesota is one of six states to participate in the initiative since its start in 2007. Shifting Gears seeks to improve the education and employment outcomes of adult learners by encouraging state leaders to better align state education and workforce systems. In Minnesota, the Departments of Adult Basic Education and Employment and Economic Development as well as the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System Office actively collaborate to implement the program.
Local philanthropic resources also support the program, namely by providing funding for staff to serve as career navigators who work one on one with students enrolled in Fast TRAC. The navigators provide support and career guidance as well as broker community resources such as child care assistance so that students persist and complete the program. There are 34 Fast TRAC programs operating at 20 community colleges.
While the program has achieved early success since its inception, it is also at a crossroads. Major philanthropic support for Fast TRAC is scheduled to end after 2014. Without state funding taking up the slack, bringing the program to all the state’s community colleges and sustaining it long term may not be possible.
Joel Luedtke of the Jay & Rose Phillips Family Foundation of Minnesota and member of the newly formed Workforce Policy Task Force provided testimony in support of Fast TRAC funding during a committee hearing leading up to the full House vote. The Taskforce is made up of local, statewide, and regional philanthropic organizations who seek to build policymaker support for credential attainment, career pathways, and industry partnerships. It has also created this video which showcases the power of career pathway strategies like Fast TRAC.
Unfortunately, the Senate’s jobs and workforce development bill does not include funding for Fast TRAC funding, so House and Senate leaders will work through the differences between both bills in the coming weeks. Minnesota stakeholders are hoping the final outcome will include funding for Fast TRAC.