"We've done a better job listening and trying to understand that, and a better job trying to respond to it," said MnSCU Chancellor Steven Rosenstone.
Since then, he has pushed for more state funding for internships, equipment and faculty training.
Last year, Rosenstone announced a plan to put into action some of the things MnSCU had learned from talking to employers.
In addition to better aligning college courses to the needs of business, it would also increase the number of apprenticeships and make the workforce training system more affordable and easier to navigate.
Lawmakers also have come out with their own proposals — to strengthen vocational programs, expose high-school students to technical trades, and provide students with precise skills. The proposals include:
■ Collect better job data. MnSCU is comparing skills listed in job postings with what college programs in those fields are teaching. It's also collecting job postings from online sources to see which jobs are in demand in Minnesota and where. Rothchild said that data should be more up-to-date than what's available now.
■ Give high-school students access to college-level vocational courses and IT certification. In 2012, the Legislature allowed students as early as 10th grade to take career and technical courses for credit at two-year colleges. And a bill this session would enable high-school students to earn skill certifications in information technology.
■ Expand apprenticeship opportunities. Impressed with the apprenticeship program run between Buhler Inc. of Plymouth and Dunwoody College of Technology in Minneapolis, Bonoff wants to create apprenticeships in the high-demand fields of advanced manufacturing, health care services and information technology. This year she has proposed a that would set the stage by requiring the state to establish competency standards — with possible industry input — for future apprentices in those fields.