MANKATO — Congressman Tim Walz told a group of school, business and community leaders Monday it’s going to be tough to get much done in Washington in the coming months, but he’s optimistic about a transportation bill getting passed as well as bills to regulate stock trading by members of Congress and to create jobs.
Walz’s comments were made during a listening session at the Workforce Center in Mankato. Walz spent a good portion of the meeting updating attendees about the latest developments in Washington regarding major legislation.
Among Walz’s announcements was that he expects the transportation bill to pass and will include funding, in part, from an energy bill he is sponsoring.
Americans are hungry for progress like this, he said, and are tired of bickering impeding progress.
“We’re fighting these ideological fights at the expense of building roads,” he said.
Walz also was looking for input. He received it.
South Central College President Keith Stover told Walz about his college’s Right Skills Now program, a fast-track program that trains students quickly for jobs in the manufacturing sector that are in need of skilled workers, such as welding.
Stover said the program started at the college’s Faribault campus this fall with 19 students and will roll out on the North Mankato campus in March. The idea is to train students with a limited number of credits, then place them at a company that needs workers. Once they work for a while, and the company is happy with their work, the employer agrees to help the student complete the full program at SCC. Stover told Walz programs such as Right Skills Now should be supported and funded.
Sue Worlds, regional coordinator for Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans, said she hoped the government could do something about the fact that veterans, in some cases, cannot use in the real world the skills they acquired in the military.
For instance, she said, a medic who handled extreme situations near a battlefield and can do the job “in the dark” cannot get a job as a paramedic without first going through additional schooling.
Walz told her there are plans in the works to remove some of those barriers. He said it wouldn’t be that difficult for the military, before a soldier is sent home, to put him through a few hours of training that would satisfy the requirements of the certification required back in America.
Scott Olson, provost and vice president for academic and student affairs at Minnesota State University, said the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system has a program to help veterans identify the work they’ve done and determine how it might equate to credits or possible careers.
Walz said he likes to hear from the people in south-central Minnesota because of the area’s reputation for cooperation. Education, industry and the government work well together here, Walz said. He said other lawmakers, after hearing Walz describe his district, wonder if he’s representing Mayberry (the fictional town in the “Andy Griffith Show”).