Minnesota’s shortage of skilled workers is causing employers in many fields to scramble to find new sources of talent, including women and minorities.

Dunwoody College of Technology is a great place to look.

Female and minority students now make up 14 percent and 19 percent, respectively, of Dunwoody’s student body. The college’s Youth Career Awareness Program (YCAP) has played a central role in attracting these young people to technical occupations of a kind many haven’t traditionally sought out.

Recently, the Star Tribune’s Neal St. Anthony profiledDunwoody’s YCAP Program, which was named after the late Leon Rankin, a 1960s Dunwoody grad and one of Minnesota’s first black master electricians and contractors.  According to St. Anthony,

the program is credited with bringing more than 2,000 ‘underrepresented’ high school students to Dunwoody for six-week paid internships to explore technical education and career opportunities.

More than 1,300 of those students have gone on to earn degrees at Dunwoody or elsewhere.

And graduates of YCAP who attend century-old Dunwoody typically receive scholarships valued at $20,000-plus.

St. Anthony gives the example of Michael Simmons, a black 27-year-old Dunwoody grad who participated in YCAP and now works in transmission-engineering at Xcel Energy:

Simmons recalled that he had an interest at Washburn High in aviation, another in-demand field. That broadened when his mom sent him to YCAP before his junior year.

It was an interesting internship that exposed him to careers, company visits and helped him connect why it made sense to do well in math, science and other classes.

Simmons first earned an associate degree at Dunwoody, and later returned to get a four-year degree in industrial engineering.

‘I can advance further with a four-year degree’ [he told St. Anthony]. I will be able to manage employees and help our company produce reliable products and reduce waste.

Since 2010, minority hiring in construction, health care and technology has been “growing faster than the overall job market”, according to St. Anthony. Dunwoody’s innovative youth-focused program has played an important role in that.

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