“We need FastTRAC on every campus in Minnesota. We need state and federal job training and workforce development monies to be better coordinated with higher education funding and programs, so that all of our students come out of our educational systems, skilled and ready to succeed. The success of our state depends upon it.”
- Governor Mark Dayton
In his annual State of the State address to the Minnesota Legislature, Governor Mark Dayton pointed to the success of Antoinette McCarthy, a 27-year-old mother of three who was formerly on the Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP) as she struggled to find a career in today’s competitive job market. Her successful completion of a new career training program, being shaped with the help of the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS), was cited by Dayton in his Feb. 15 address as he urged legislators to expand the program, called FastTRAC.
“Antoinette McCarthy is another wonderful success story,” said Dayton. She struggled to find a decent-paying job and a career with a future. Now, Antoinette is poised for success. She just completed a FastTRAC program at Inver Hills Community College, receiving her Certificate as a Nursing Assistant. Her hard work for that certificate means she will earn, on average, nearly double what someone would at a minimum-wage medical job. We need FastTRAC on every campus in Minnesota. We need state and federal job training and workforce development monies to be better coordinated with higher education funding and programs, so that all of our students come out of our educational systems, skilled and ready to succeed. The success of our state depends upon it.”
FastTRAC, is a career training initiative that now has hundreds of students enrolled in one of 34 different training paths to careers that pay a living wage.
McCarthy attended a month of full-day sessions at Inver Hills Community College, one of 20 campuses in Minnesota with a FastTRAC program. The first half of the day focused on the academic work that prepared her for the state CNA exam. The second part of the day was hands-on work in a nursing lab, handling real medical equipment and modeling situations that students would be faced with in a nursing job every day.
FastTrac provides training and education for an array of Minnesota industries -- health care, manufacturing, education, business, energy and culinary – and is intended to help close a serious skills gap in Minnesota’s workforce by focusing on re-engaging adults who need foundational and occupational skill training. Economists estimate that in seven years, 70 percent of Minnesota jobs will require a college credential. Right now, 40 percent of the state’s adults have that level of education.
The program is a multi-agency partnership, guided by experts from DHS, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, the Minnesota Department of Education, Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, the Greater Twin Cities United Way and others.
Since its inception in January 2010, FastTRAC is demonstrating effectiveness in improving educational outcomes for educationally unprepared adults by:
Integrating basic skills education and career-specific training by bringing Adult Basic Education and college instructors together in the same classroom
Focusing on credential attainment
Targeting high-demand occupations
Meeting the needs of working learners.
Currently, 88 percent of all students enrolled in FastTRAC integrated instruction are completing their foundational “integrated” courses, and 75 percent of students who complete their programs are securing employment in their chosen career pathway.
That track record potentially makes FastTRAC a great opportunity for some individuals who receive public cash and food assistance through the Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP). Almost 40 percent of MFIP parents do not have a high school diploma. Most are low-wage workers who have lost jobs.
DHS is using $250,000 in Innovation Funds to test the FastTRAC model’s effectiveness for MFIP participants in three FastTRAC programs:
Anoka Healthcare/Nursing Pathways, which focuses on Universal Health Care Worker in Older Adult Services Certificate training with a special focus on low-income households. It is offered at Anoka Technical College and the Anoka Ramsey Community College.
Universal Health Care Worker, a pathway consisting of comprehensive career and technical training in 10 segments. They can be taken independently or as part of the entire credentialing program. This pathway is offered through Minnesota West Community & Technical College, which has centers in nine southwest Minnesota communities.
Enhanced West Metro Pathway to HealthCare Careers, which offers Introduction to Health Care, Nursing Assistant Preparation, and/or Medical Terminology at Hennepin Technical College. DHS Commissioner Lucinda Jesson met with students and instructors here on Feb. 10.
Mark Toogood, director of the Transitions to Economic Stability Division at DHS and a member of the FastTRAC senior leadership team, said one objective of the pilot programs is to assess the benefits of assigning “navigators” to MFIP participants enrolled in FastTRAC programs.
“We’re working with the United Way to study whether having a navigator, or single point of contact on the campus, contributes to retention and course completion for MFIP participants. Whether they are having problems with child care, or if the car breaks down, or if they’re having difficulty in school, MFIP participants turn to their assigned navigator. We think this single contact point will help participants complete the training and find employment,” said Toogood.
“Even with a learning disability, there’s nothing you can’t accomplish if you’re determined to make the change in your life,” said McCarthy. “I’m the biggest example of that. There was a point in my life I didn’t know what direction to go and there weren’t many resources for me. Now I have everything I need to be successful.”