Pioneer Press

By Olivia Stevens

Charles Langhorne, 32, graduated from Minnesota State University Mankato with a degree in sports management in 2014.

Now, Langhorne said he’s looking forward to working under contract as a plumber, work he’s already started as an apprentice through St. Paul College. Working 40 hours per week while completing his five years of schooling, taking night classes twice a week, has allowed him to pay for his education as he gains experience in the field.

“This is a skill I won’t lose,” said Langhorne. “Once I learn it, I can always use it to make money for myself and have the opportunity to educate others, gain leadership positions.”

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar visited St. Paul College Friday to promote new legislation to expand access to apprenticeships throughout the nation. Klobuchar also toured a number of the school’s training areas, such as those for carpentry, automotive service technician, toolmaking and plumbing.

Klobuchar is hoping to gain support for her American Apprenticeship Act, which would offer tuition assistance for students in apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs, and the Apprenticeships to College Act, which would help more students earn college credit for completed apprenticeships. The bipartisan legislation was introduced last month, and if passed, would help combat workforce shortages in important trades, she said.

“There are many paths to success, and right now our country is crying out for people to go into the manufacturing and construction and the trades,” Klobuchar said. “My job is to find ways to make it more affordable to everyone, create those incentives, make it easier for businesses who have employees who want to go into these areas and also for students to pursue these degrees.”

‘A stronger future’

During the conference, St. Paul College President Deidra Peaslee said two-thirds of their students have experienced basic needs insecurity in the last year, and the American Apprenticeship Act would help students complete their education and “build a stronger future.”

“There is no doubt that our students facing are facing more barriers of completion than ever,” she said. “When students’ needs are met, they are more likely to succeed. When students know their tuition is paid for and they will graduate with less or no debt, they are more likely to succeed. When students feel that they have an in-demand job that offers a living wage and growth opportunities after graduation, they are more likely to succeed.”

Noting that 92% of graduates of St. Paul College’s care and technical college programs find jobs within one year of graduation, Klobuchar said she sees the legislation as part of continued economic recovery from COVID-19.

Klobuchar also restated her commitment for advocating for free tuition at two-year community and technical colleges, a priority she touted often during her 2020 presidential campaign.

“We want to meet make ourselves a country again that makes stuff that invents things that exports to the world,” she said. “That has always been our competitive edge, and it starts with our workers.”