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M-State in DL to play key role in new 'green energy' manufacturer training

Minnesota State Community and Technical College (M-State) announced earlier this month that it has been awarded a grant of $202,500 by Minnesota Renewable Energy Marketplace-Alliance for Talent Development to help fund training for employment in current and emerging energy technologies and in manufacturing.

The college is partnering with Rural Minnesota CEP, BTD, Inc., Lake Region Electric Cooperative, Otter Tail Power Company, Adult Basic Education, and six area school districts to provide foundational technical training for displaced workers, under-skilled workers, and high school juniors and seniors.

The schools that will be involved in the cooperative project include Detroit Lakes, Lake Park-Audubon, Perham-Dent, Hawley and Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton.

"We're very excited about this," says John Flatt, School-to-Work program coordinator for Detroit Lakes Public Schools. "It's going to provide a skill set for our students to be prepared to enter into this new green technology field -- and they will also have the opportunity to earn high school and college credit at the same time."

"Students will be able to earn both high school and college credit for these five technical courses," explains Dr. Pat Wilber, the college's Vice President of Advancement and Dean of Customized Training.

Right now, scheduling details are still being worked out, but the plan is for students to attend classes in their home school districts during the morning, then go to MSCTC for the afternoon, according to Wilber. They will be able to take part in extracurricular activities in their home districts as well.

Training will be offered in 2009 and 2010 at the MSCTC's Detroit Lakes and Moorhead campuses. The grant will provide tuition and class materials for up to 20 students at the Detroit Lakes campus, and another 20 students at Moorhead.

"Knowledge in technical math, electrical and mechanical systems, computer design, industrial controls and welding is foundational for current positions but also for emerging jobs in wind, solar, biomass, and bio-gasification industries," Wilber says.

These basic courses will give students interested in a career in energy and manufacturing a "leg up" in determining their future career path.

"They will be receiving 14 college credits that will be paid for by the grant," Wilber says.

If they complete the program successfully, they will also be given a technological studies certificate that they can either use to present to a future employer, or put on their college transcript.

"All of these college credits are transferable if they want to go on to earn a two- or four-year degree," Flatt adds.

Recruiting for the program has already begun, and with just 20 slots available, Wilber feels, "We shouldn't have any trouble filling (the classes) up."

In fact, Flatt said, each participating district will receive a certain percentage of the available slots.

"We will probably send five or six from DL, but if any of the other schools don't fill their quota (Hawley and DGF will go to Moorhead), we can maybe send more," he says.

There will also be a certain number of slots open for displaced or under-trained workers, but those openings will be at the Moorhead campus only, according to Wilber.

Still, Flatt says, "With the economy the way it is, it's a great opportunity for people who have been displaced."

There is another aspect to the grant project as well, Wilber explains.

To broaden knowledge of "green technologies," MSCTC technical faculty, collaborating with green technology specialists, will develop 12 "green" learning units to embed in engine-related, construction/design, and electrical programs on all campuses in 2009-10.

These units also will be shared with other colleges and high schools statewide to promote alternative energy practices.

"The goal in this part of the program is to deploy graduates in transportation, construction, design, energy, and electrical fields who can immediately apply green technologies and cost effective practices as they launch careers across Minnesota," Wilber says.

"Over 20 faculty members have already volunteered to embed (the units) into their curriculum as they're developed," she adds. Because the grant was not proprietary, "We will share it with anyone who wants (to incorporate) these new technologies in their curriculum."

For more information about the program, contact Steve Guttormsen at 218-736-1531, or by e-mail at steve.guttormson@

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454