At an event at Uponor in Apple Valley, U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken highlighted efforts to close the skills gap and boost STEM education in Minnesota high schools and community colleges. 

Klobuchar and Franken were joined by students and faculty from Apple Valley High School, the recent recipient of a nearly $3 million federal grant to establish a STEM focus and create partnerships with colleges and local businesses. Both senators have pressed legislation to close the nation's "skills gap," which has left more than 3 million jobs unfilled because employers can't find employees with the right training.

"For Minnesota to succeed in the 21st century economy, we need a 21st century education system," said Klobuchar. "The STEM program at Apple Valley is a perfect example of students receiving training for the jobs of tomorrow that businesses are creating today. I will continue working to expand these opportunities to students so we can train the scientists, engineers, and inventors of tomorrow."

"Our nation's global competitiveness depends on how well we prepare our students in STEM fields, but right now, we're lagging behind," said Franken. "In Minnesota alone, we're going to have to fill more than 180,000 STEM jobs by 2018. As I travel around our state, I hear from schools, businesses and communities that high-tech jobs are going unfilled because people don't have the skills to fill them. I enjoyed seeing firsthand the great work that Apple Valley High School is doing to prepare students for those jobs, and I look forward to supporting programs like this one and pushing to make them available to students all across Minnesota."

Klobuchar's legislation, the Innovate America Act, would fund 100 new STEM high schools and boost the number of computer science teachers in elementary and secondary schools. The bill would also help increase the competitiveness of small-and medium-sized businesses by promoting and rewarding schools, technical colleges, and universities that focus on STEM programs and removing red tape and reducing production costs for manufacturing businesses.

Franken has a bill, the STEM Master Teacher Corps Act, that would reward the best STEM teachers in Minnesota and across the country and give them the opportunity to serve as mentors to other STEM teachers. Franken has also made workforce development a major priority, and successfully fought to include support for partnerships between businesses and two-year colleges in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), which was passed into law earlier this summer.