1/12/2018 3:00:00 PM US Sen. Smith makes first field visit of term here
Minnesota’s newest senator heard from officials with Pine Tech, Forest Lake Area schools and local workforce agencies about collaboration underway to help address a chronic shortage in this state of skilled workers. U.S. Senator Tina Smith was invited for her first official congressional field trip to Chisago County January 5-- to tour Wyoming Machine in Stacy and speak with local economic development and jobs training officials.
Pine Techn’s Joe Mulford spoke about the benefit from being able to use the equipment at Wyoming Machine to not only practice for things like welding certification tests, but also to familiarize students with advanced manufacturing equipment the school never could afford to invest in. A federal education grant is helping the school and partnering businesses develop workers for the future, adept at operating computerized laser-cutting devices, doing finely detail welding and other skill-intensive labor.
Forest Lake School District Superintendent Steve Massey told Senator Smith how vocational and technical learning is “...the heart and soul of high school for some kids.” He said without this type of practical education available as an option locally, he expects a number of area students would drop-out of high school.
Lori Tapani, co-president of Wyoming Machine with her sister Traci, explained to the senator about her involvement in Project Lead the Way at North Branch high school and how the special program is helping provide students with targeted, real life skills.
Sen. Smith said she will bring this story back to Washington and stress the importance of workforce funding for keeping partnerships such as this going. Smith was heading to Duluth after the event at Wyoming Machine to discuss foreign steel dumping and its actual impacts on the Range Economy. Smith took the oath of office Wednesday last week, after being named to succeed former U.S. Senator Al Franken, whose resignation became official Tuesday January 2. Franken also made stops at Wyoming Machine, as has U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar.