By: Al Edenloff

U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar came to the Alexandria Technical and Community College Wednesday after she found out how successful the college has been in training students.

Despite the difficult job market, 96 percent of its graduates found jobs last year.

The senator left with an appreciation of the cutting edge technology the college teaches students in its Center for Applied Mechatronics. The center provides education and training for the technologically advanced fields of manufacturing automation and motion control.

Klobuchar said Minnesota needs to follow the college’s lead in training workers to not only fill today’s high-tech jobs but also prepare them for the jobs of the future.

“We need to put Minnesotans back to work again and the key is innovation,” said Klobuchar, who is a member of the Senate Commerce Committee and chair of the Subcommittee on Innovation, Competitiveness and Export Promotion.

Klobuchar said that today’s job market – “from poultry lines to paper mills” – is increasingly relying on computerizeration and a specialized workforce with the high-tech skills to get the job done.

She said that Minnesota is defined by coming up with new ideas, from developing the pacemaker to sticky notes. She said that kind of drive is needed to seize opportunities in today’s global marketplace.

Klobuchar’s visit to Alexandria was one of 14 stops on an “Innovation Tour” to highlight the potential of economic innovation for long-term prosperity and job creation.

“Innovation has always been key to Minnesota’s economic success,” said Klobuchar. “More than ever before, our state and our nation will need to innovate to compete in the global economy.”

She said the tour was an opportunity for her to visit the businesses that create jobs; see the schools that will educate the next generation of entrepreneurs and workers; and hear from local officials who want to do everything they can to promote economic development in their communities.

Following the tour, Klobuchar plans to convene an “Innovation Summit” at the University of Minnesota on Tuesday, January 18. The event will provide an opportunity for Minnesotans to share information and exchange ideas about the strategies needed to revitalize America’s innovative edge and ability to compete in the global economy.

At the summit, Klobuchar said she’ll unveil her “National Innovation Agenda” – a comprehensive package of legislation to strengthen America’s ability to innovate and compete for long-term economic growth and job creation.

Besides Alexandria, Klobuchar made stops in Ada, Aitkin, Backus, Bagley, Bemidji, Brainerd, Detroit Lakes, Fergus Falls, Glenwood, Little Falls, Long Prairie, Moorhead and Park Rapids.

What is mechatronics?

Mechatronics combines mechanical, electronic and information technology into a single discipline that crosses most of the traditional boundaries of a skilled technician. The mechatronics program at ATCC is customized to teach a core set of mechanical, fluid power, electrical, electronic, controls and automation technical skills that are applicable in a wide variety of settings.

Sign of the times

A sign in the Alexandria Technical and Community College’s Center for Applied Mechatronics reads as follows:

That’s been the theme at the college for a long time, ATCC President Kevin Kopischke told Senator Amy Klobuchar during her visit Wednesday.