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Central Region

central-minnesota-mapCentral Minnesota is a manufacturing stronghold, with several global manufacturing firms operating there.

The region is especially well known for its expertise in food processing, printing, furniture manufacturing, appliances, machinery and heavy equipment manufacturing.

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Connecting Career Paths to Manufacturers in Central Minnesota

10/7/2020 9:00:00 AM

Luke Greiner

Raising public awareness about the importance of Manufacturing in our communities and regions is essential, as this industry plays a large part of our state's success. Manufacturing added $52.7 billion to Minnesota's economy in 2019, representing the second-largest contribution (14%) to the state's gross domestic product (GDP) of any industry.

Central Minnesota manufacturers provided 41,961 jobs in 2019 – 15% of total employment in the region, a significantly higher concentration than the state (11%). It is the second-largest employing industry, behind only Health Care and Social Assistance.

Manufacturing jobs pay an average annual wage of $54,912 in the region, which is almost $8,500 (+22.6%) more than the total of all industries. Family-sustaining wages are plentiful in Manufacturing, providing successful career paths for highly demanded occupations for workers of all education levels.

Many production jobs don't require any education beyond high school and rely on skills gained in high school or on-the-job. Some examples include welding, with a median annual wage of $47,427; maintenance and repair workers ($44,641), and wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives ($63,304).

Many Manufacturing occupations are held by workers with postsecondary education from a technical or community college, including tool and die makers ($58,230), electrical and electronics engineering technicians ($56,255), and machinists ($50,263).

Individuals who get their bachelor's degree (or higher) and pursue a career as an industrial engineer have a median wage of $85,735. Other in-demand jobs found at manufacturing firms that require at least a bachelor's degree include mechanical engineers ($76,343) and human resource managers ($99,906), among others (see Figure 1).

Manufacturing Occupations in Demand

Changing perceptions

While the industry provides numerous well compensated occupations, manufacturers can still struggle to find people to fill openings. The industry – once perceived as "dark, dirty and dangerous" – has been working hard to prove to students, potential hires, and their communities that those perceptions are outdated and far from accurate today. Many manufacturers, especially those in the medical and food industries, are bright and clean, with state-of-the-art safety measures on their machines.

One organization working to change perceptions is the Central Minnesota Manufacturing Association (CMMA), which serves over 190 manufacturers in the Greater St. Cloud region. This nonprofit association is led by a group of volunteers whose primary purpose is to contribute to the growth and success of manufacturers.

To build more interest in manufacturing among students in local school districts, CMMA waives membership dues for Central Minnesota schools. They also offer up to $10,000 annually in grants to support area schools with limited resources, assist with annual VEX Robotics competitions, and contribute to the Exploring Potential Interests and Careers (EPIC) event for high school students in Central Minnesota.

They've also developed a toolkit for the Youth Skills Training (YST) and Youth Apprenticeship (YA) programs that assists employers and schools in navigating the work-based learning opportunities offered through the Department of Labor and Industry (DLI), and the Department of Education for students ages 16 to 18 years.

"The development of skilled young students for manufacturing careers is critical for the growth and survival of manufacturers," said Les Engel, of Engel Metallurgical Ltd., who is president of CMMA.

CMMA is developing a list of manufacturing companies willing to work with schools, which they will post on their website. It plans to launch the K12 Navigator which will operate as a connector for students, teachers, and parents with information on manufacturing businesses for training, tours, apprenticeships, and other support areas.

A member of the Midwest Manufacturers' Association (MMA), CMMA has two regional sister organizations within Minnesota: Arrowhead Manufacturers & Fabricators Association (AMFA), located in Northeast Minnesota and Northwest Wisconsin; and Tri-State Manufacturers' Association (TSMA), serving manufacturers in west central Minnesota and eastern North and South Dakota.

Central Minnesota Manufacturing Highlights

For More Information

Contact Luke Greiner at 320-308-5378.

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