Riverland receives $1.97 million to fund ‘Earn and Learn’ project

(ABC 6 News) – Riverland Community College was awarded $1,975,000 through the 2023 Congressionally Directed Spending federal budget allocation to fund a workforce initiative called Learn and Earn. The project funding was secured by Minnesota Senators, Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith.

Riverland’s Learn and Earn Initiative is a workforce development initiative to strengthen the pipeline of skilled technicians in the manufacturing and transportation sectors by creating programs and curriculum that will provide students with the opportunity to obtain educational credentials or certifications while also contributing to the workforce by working in high demand fields that are experiencing unprecedented labor shortages.

Approximately $1.7 million of the project costs will be allocated to upgrading equipment to meet industry standards for training students in manufacturing and transportation programs on the Albert Lea and Owatonna campuses, which will benefit the entire southern Minnesota region that Riverland serves.

Riverland will launch a new Automation Robotics Engineering Technology certificate starting in the Fall of 2023.  A diploma, and Associate of Applied Science degree will launch in the future. Funding will purchase equipment such as industrial robots, industrial control systems, various programmable logistical controllers (PLCs), fluid power, electric motor control, optical sensors, and other much needed equipment upgrades for Riverland’s Advanced Manufacturing programs.  

Riverland is strategically increasing transportation training opportunities due to market demand. Purchasing an additional semi-truck and passenger bus will increase Riverland’s capacity for transportation training.

Approximately $275,000 of the award will be allocated to engage businesses to develop a “Learn and Earn” model for learners to enroll in manufacturing and transportation programs while working part-time for partner businesses to solve the immediate and future workforce demands.

Riverland will also recruit and develop a diverse pool of faculty to educate and retain diverse students who make up a growing percentage of the labor pool. Collaborate with industry partners to identify skilled technicians who could be trained as part-time adjunct instructors in credit and non-credit courses in the manufacturing and transportation sector.

Development and delivery of non-credit training and certifications in high-demand areas like Commercial Truck Driving (Class A and B), Logistics, Distribution, and Welding to assist business and industry partners in upskilling current employees in shorter timeframes.

“Due to the great support of Minnesota Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith, Riverland Community College is grateful for the Congressionally Directed Spending allocation to launch a $1.97 million Learn and Earn Initiative that engages industry partners with students in Riverland’s manufacturing and transportation programs at our three campuses in Austin, Albert Lea, and Owatonna,” said Riverland President Dr. Adenuga Atewologun. “The allocation will enable an investment into high-tech instructional equipment and create “learn and earn” opportunities for students with the cooperation of employers in high-demand fields, such as manufacturing and transportation. For employers who are currently experiencing unprecedented workforce challenges and shortages, the Learn and Earn Initiative is a strategic investment in Riverland Community College to meet workforce development needs in the region we serve.”

The college is working on the project plan for the first several months of 2023 as Riverland learns more about the timeline for receiving funds and federal award requirements.  Funds may be spent over the next 3 years.