There has been much made about baby boom retirements and an impending shortage of workers. The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development is talking about it, as is the state demographer, among others.
At Ziegler CAT, we share these concerns, and we are taking proactive action. Our strategy has been to invest in strong partnerships with many colleges from within the Minnesota State system, including Dakota County Technical College, Minnesota West Community and Technical College in Canby, Alexandria Community and Technical College, and Hibbing Community College.
But the impending shortage of workers is a statewide concern – one that warrants a statewide response. For this reason I encourage our state leaders to join us and other businesses in our investment in the colleges and universities of Minnesota State – and this state’s future workforce and economic vitality – by supporting the Minnesota State budget request that is currently before the legislature.
Our strategic investment in our partner colleges has taken many forms. In recent years, we have invested cash and in-kind contributions worth about $500,000. We provide training, tools, scholarships, internship opportunities, and other resources to the programs we partner with. We are involved with programs like Skills USA that offer extracurricular opportunities for students to hone their skills. We have donated equipment including skid steer loaders, engines, test equipment and many other components. We provide free access to our technical training content to both instructors and students. And, we have built relationships that are foundational to our success with skilled, industry-savvy instructors who continually seek ways to improve their programs.
Starting with a strong foundation
These strategic partnerships have paid off for us by developing the talent we need to do the job right. When students learn the proper techniques at our partner colleges and understand the fundamentals, their employment with us starts off with a foundation that will help us meet the needs of our customers. Students who join Ziegler CAT from our partner colleges have learned the right way to do the job, and they take pride in doing the job correctly. In all, we currently employ about 500 graduates from these schools in a variety of key roles within the organization including service department technicians, supervisors, branch managers, parts managers, technical communicators and trainers, customer support representatives, and many more.
But more important than the value our partner colleges provide to our company is the value they provide to our customers. Our philosophy is, “If the customer is successful, then Ziegler will be successful,” and our customers use the Caterpillar products we sell to build Minnesota’s roads, sewer, and water systems. They are used in mining, site development, power generation, home building, and agriculture, just to name a few. By helping our customers to be successful, Minnesota State is helping to make all of these critical sectors of Minnesota’s economy more successful.
Businesses deeply rely on Minnesota State
My hope is that our elected officials in St. Paul understand just how deeply businesses rely on the colleges and universities of Minnesota State to develop the talent we need to compete and thrive. Minnesota State has a budget request before the governor and the legislature, and among all the priorities our legislators are faced with, I believe that Minnesota State should be very close to the top.
Ziegler CAT’s strategic partnership investment with the colleges of Minnesota State is significant, but it is one we are willing to make because it helps us, our employees, and our customers to be successful. For the same reason, legislators should invest in the colleges and universities of Minnesota State to ensure students continue to have access to high quality, affordable education and the state continues to have the talent it needs in order to thrive.
Tim Wise is a vice president of Ziegler CAT, Minnesota’s dealer of Caterpillar machines and engines, and a recent member of the Dakota County Technical College Foundation Board.
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