Preparing college students for today’s economy and job market demands partnerships and collaborations.

Classwork and homework is a strong foundation, but it’s no longer enough. Students need real-world experience and networking opportunities through internships, on-the-job training, and other initiatives that create funnels directly to good jobs after graduation.

U.S. Sen. Al Franken deserves praise for seeing that, and working to help out.

The Minnesota Democrat plans to introduce a proposal this month that would let colleges and universities apply for grants to fund new community collaborations to close the so-called skills gap -- the problems some companies have in finding workers with adequate training. Priority would be given to those that address the sectors of greatest need, like health care, advanced manufacturing, clean energy, and information technology.

We know there are all kinds of conflicting opinions on the scope of the skills gap, but there's no arguing that it's not good policy to kick college kids out into the real world well before they don a cap and gown.

Franken’s support of partnerships is a great idea.

We bet that as he tries to sell his bill, he could use some examples to bolster his case.

So we invite the senator to visit Winona to see some of the fruitful partnerships that community and education leaders have already built.

The composite engineering and on-site nursing degree programs at Winona State University.

The tailored on-site apprenticeships, as well as the continuing education and workforce training at Southeast Technical College.

The internships that all three of Winona’s colleges have built with local companies.

The growing collaboration among Winona’s colleges and public schools to create a nimbler curriculum tailored to preparing students at increasingly younger ages for higher education.

Franken’s bill would limit the grant program to community colleges and two-year universities. With the demonstrated success of partnerships at four-year universities here, we believe the bill should go further and create a separate grant program for four-year universities.

Partnerships and collaborations are key to students’ future successes--not to mention key to building healthy communities by welcoming students into a college, then ensuring them a direct path into a desirable local job after graduation.

When it comes to investing in them, all-in is the best approach.

By Brian Voerding, editor, on behalf of the Winona Daily News editorial board, which also includes Publisher Rusty Cunningham and Deputy Editor Jerome Christenson.

(7) comments

Leslie Hittner
Leslie Hittner

There is considerable concern about internships - especially unpaid internships. Some businesses look upon internships as a source of cheap labor and not as a part of a shared educational obligation. Partnering colleges and universities have had to learn to monitor internships closely to ensure that they meet the educational goals that the schools have set.

Students pay college tuition to "experience" an internship. They have a right to expect that experience to be of a high quality and educational.


I imagine the Franken PR machine will be out in full force over the next yr. He is not a Minnesotan and that rubs many the wrong way.

Mike Steber Winona
Mike Steber Winona

Franken was born in New York, but as a young boy was moved to Albert Lea with his parents. He graduated from St. Louis Park High School. That makes him a Minnesotan to me.


you are wrong, see below


Actually, see above, not below. But you are still wrong.


He did graduate however from a Minnesota school. Don't let the SNL schtick fool you, he is a very smart man.


Just for the record, Al moved to Minnesota at the ripe old age of four, from New Jersey. I was on the same plane with him. So were Mom and Dad. I was nine. We moved to Albert Lea.
Even went he went away to Harvard after I went to MIT, he came back in the summer vacations to be with our parents and his friends. He is Minnesota through and through.

We have close to the same voice. When one of us would call home, Mom would ask, "Is this the smart one, or the funny one?" We never knew whom she meant, or how to answer.

Minnesota is honored to have him in the Senate fighting for you.

Owen Franken

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