By Pioneer staff reports on Feb 20, 2014 at 11:48 p.m.

Pioneer Editorial Board

During a visit this week by U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., local officials highlighted the challenges in finding skilled workers in the manufacturing sector in and around Bemidji.

With an unemployment rate higher than the state average, as well as the highest poverty rate in the region, the need for Bemidji and Beltrami County to address these issues is critical.

But the news is not all doom and gloom. Progress is being made, local officials told Klobuchar. Several local and regional partnerships have been developed between the private and public sector to create, manage and help fund programs to better prepare graduating high school seniors and college students for the workforce.

The Bemidji area abounds with programs and organizations such as the Minnesota Innovation Institute, Optivation and the 360° Manufacturing and Applied Engineering ATE Regional Center of Excellence at BSU, Greater Bemidji, Bemidji Leads! and The Idea Circle, to name just a few.

While that’s a lot of alphabet soup to wade through, the bottom line is that by working collectively, more local and area high school and college students are being introduced to job skills training they will need when entering the workforce.

Also, current workers have access to training that can enhance their careers. 

And one of the pillars of BSU and Northwest Technical College President Richard Hanson’s task force taking a look at NTC’s future is what role it will play in meeting the needs of area employers.

True, these are challenging times for area employers. But attention is being focused on the issue and Bemidji should be able to come out ahead in the long run.