Creative Solutions Change Lives
The power of partnership is real at PPL, especially with collaborators like Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC). For over 15 years, PPL and MCTC have sought to help disadvantaged jobseekers get on a career pathway and achieve greater economic stability. Our partnership builds on the strengths of both entities to inspire innovative programs such as Train to Work, Pharmacy Technician, and our most recent program pilot Human Services Pathways.
The PPL Learning Center in the Phillips neighborhood of Minneapolis is home to our employment training and work-readiness programs. Originally designed to support low-income jobseekers from the neighborhood, the Center serves over 3,000 individuals a year from as far away as Dakota County. Many people come to the PPL Learning Center because they’ve heard about the high quality sector-based and college-credit earning programs we have created with MCTC.
Olga Salazar, Pharmacy Technician Training graduate says, “I was looking to go back to college, and I didn’t know where to start. I was kind of lost. I was looking for resources and found PPL’s Pharmacy Technician classes. I thought it was too good to be true, so I gave PPL a call…within a year I have a new job, and a new career.”
Because of the success of our first college credit-earning opportunity—Pharmacy Technician Training—we piloted two more college-credit-bearing training programs last year and have just launched our fourth this March. Each of the trainings includes MCTC instructors and curriculum designed by MCTC in collaboration with employer partners. Student recruitment, wraparound support services, employer partner cultivation, and job placement and retention services are provided by PPL.
“It’s an action-oriented partnership,” says Mike Christenson, MCTC Associate Vice President of Workforce Development. “We’ve created a unique service delivery system that supports students with wraparound services and training programs that are unparalleled.”
The MCTC student population is highly diverse, many are first-generation college students, and often there are life-barriers that interrupt course completion. This also reflects many of the people PPL serves, giving our partnership an immediate shared understanding and solid foundation from which to build effective programs.
Loretta Anderson, Director of Continuing Education Customized Training, notes, “The partnership provides a level of flexibility in how teachers and staff can work with students. MCTC provides experienced instructors with a particular skill-set that is well suited to the program. This, combined with PPL’s wraparound supports, helps students overcome obstacles to learning and attendance—people stay in class.”
The Governor’s Workforce Development Council’s All Hands on Deck report points to a growing skills gap in employment: up to 70% of job openings in Minnesota through 2018 will require some post-secondary education or training. The PPL/MCTC partnership directly responds to this report, with a vision that meets the short and long term needs of disadvantaged jobseekers and those of our employer partners such as Walgreens, Target, and Hennepin County, among others.
“It’s been rewarding to grow these innovative programs from an idea to a tangible credential, where we’re listening directly to employers and trends to shape new classes,” said Julie Brekke, PPL Vice President of Programs, Fundraising & Communications. “So many of the folks enrolled in our program thought that college was out of reach…it’s exciting to see people realize that they can do it!”
The PPL/MCTC partnership has already graduated 94 individuals from our college-credit-earning trainings. The partnership has created education and employment solutions for people who need opportunities. Anderson says “It changes lives; this experience has changed my life.”