MARSHALL - In an election year, it's important for politicians to keep the needs of the public in mind. On Monday, members of the Southwest Minnesota Private Industry Council told area legislators and candidates they were especially concerned with the issues of jobs and employment.
The Southwest Minnesota PIC held an informational meeting for representatives of state and local government on Monday afternoon. County commissioners, Minnesota legislators and candidates for office in the PIC's service area attended.
The Southwest Minnesota PIC administers programs to help build workforce skills and boost employment and economic development. The PIC was organized in 1983, and serves a 14-county area in the southwest corner of the state. The organization uses both state and federal funding to support its programs, said PIC executive director Juanita Lauritsen.
Monday's meeting was brief, but representatives from the PIC were able to give an overview of the work their organization is doing, and answer questions from legislators and candidates.
The PIC offers programs geared toward a wide range of people, including at-risk youth, said youth program manager Eriann Faris. Youth intervention and work experience programs can help young people develop the skills necessary to get a good job, Faris said, and early intervention can have big benefits. The PIC's youth intervention programs have a success rate of more than 80 percent, and help prevent additional costs through the juvenile justice system, she said.
PIC representative Linda Spronk said Southwest Minnesota PIC also offers programs for adults, including the Workforce Investment Act and dislocated worker program, which help eligible people build job skills or get education needed for employment. Other programs, like the Minnesota Family Investment Program and the Diversionary Work Program, help adults support their families.
Another program, called FastTRAC, combines technical education and adult basic education to help job-seekers, said job training specialist Sara Karbo. Karbo said the PIC currently offers two FastTRAC programs, for healthcare workers and industrial maintenance. The program has a 60 percent placement rate, he said.
However, one of the main challenges facing many of the PIC's programs is funding. Cuts to federal grant programs and state funding have a big impact on the programs and services PIC can offer, representatives said.
Lauritsen told legislators the organization is also trying to unite its programs under a regional plan and budget. This would allow the PIC to be more flexible and efficient, she said - funds for programs could be spent wherever they're most needed throughout the service area, instead of being limited to a certain county. Currently, counties contract with the PIC for services. Lauritsen said the PIC has contacted the Department of Human Services about the idea, and will be approaching each of the 14 counties in the service area for their approval.
Lauritsen said the organization hopes to gain approval for a unified budget by early 2013.