The Minnesota State Engineering Center of Excellence Workforce Partnership Seminar is an assembly of industry, academia, and state employees taking an active approach to solving workforce and industry challenges. The vision is to build partnerships that aim to restructure and accelerate the Minnesota workforce education system, meeting the demands in the technology and manufacturing sectors. This active approach is done through engaging and pertinent topics, along with a dynamic networking environment.

Upcoming Event

Winter – 2022 | Incarceration to Employment: Leveraging this Skilled Workforce

WHO: Industry, Academia, and State Agencies
TOPIC: Incarceration to Employment: Leveraging this Skilled Workforce
WHEN: Tuesday, February 15, 2022 | 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm

For this seminar, the Minnesota State Engineering Center of Excellence is excited to be working with the Minnesota Department of Corrections and DEED to share general information about the incarcerated population. They will highlight the general programming and education opportunities within facilities for workforce (and life) preparation. Finally, sharing ways to help employers understand the benefits available and ways to attain this skilled workforce. There will be plenty of time for questions and discussions at the end of the seminar.

Professional Development Hours Available!


Jeremiah Carter, Job Services Supervisor with the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED). Jeremiah has over 18 years of experience in Justice-Involved re-entry services, working in roles such as a Re-Entry Employment Support Consultant, Re-entry Services Case Manager, Parenting Group Facilitator, and Mentor Program Coordinator. Jeremiah also provided pre and post-release services to Justice-Involved Individuals through the DOC’s, Opportunity 4 Change program, and New Leaf Workshops offered at Careerforce locations statewide.

JoAnn Brown, a native of Saint Paul, MN, started her career in corrections in 2007 when she joined the DOC MINNCOR Industries team as a Workforce Development Specialist for the EMPLOY Program.  While in this capacity, she assisted qualified industry workers with job search techniques pre and post release.  JoAnn developed and implemented a job search training curriculum to program participants and facilitated the curriculum within the Minnesota Correctional Facilities.  In 2011, JoAnn was promoted to Supervisor of the EMPLOY Program.  Under her leadership, the program increased its eligibility criteria to include education, food services, Prison Fellowship Academy, and Institution Community Work Crew programs to reach additional interested candidates.  The program maintained a post rerelease employment rate of 70-75% or better on a quarterly basis and provided services to over 6,000 participants during the operation of the program.  In 2020, JoAnn transition into the DOC Community Reentry Unit as the Employment Services Supervisor. Currently, she is directing services for the “Employment Matters!” grant in Saint Cloud, Shakopee, and Faribault and is the DOC liaison for two community partner programs that were awarded DOL Pathway Home Funding which offers support for job search, training for obtaining industry recognized credentials, and employer connection to eligible participants pre and post release.  Furthermore, JoAnn is participating in the implementation of Person Center focus within the DOC and was co-chair of the Transformative Program workgroup.  JoAnn presently leads DOC efforts in developing employer relationships and challenging employers to redefine hiring practices when considering justice involved individuals to fulfill workforce needs. JoAnn holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Winona State University, is a certified Offender Workforce Development Specialist Lead Instructor, a CPC Assessor, and previously was certified as a Global Career Development Facilitator.

Kelley Heifort has worked in the field of corrections for 29 years. Her experiences include working a multitude of settings including prison facilities, community corrections residential programs, and substance use treatment. Ms. Heifort’s career focus with the MN DOC has been reentry programming, specifically in the development and coordination of pre and post-release services and initiatives. Ms. Heifort currently serves as MN DOC’s Reentry Services Director to provide leadership and oversight to the Department’s Evidence-Based Practices, Work Release, Facility Transition and Community Stability Services Units. A critical part of this work is implementing employment strategies and increasing job-readiness with criminal justice populations. Her team’s mantra is that every person has the supports and services needed to be successful in communities. They endeavor to lead the development and coordination of best practices in making this happen.

Past Events

FALL – 2021 | Employee Attraction and Retention

This seminar was offered in a hybrid style (virtual or in-person). For those who attended in person, lunch and networking opportunities started at 12:00 pm followed by a facility tour at the end of the meeting. For those attending via zoom (virtually), the seminar started at 1:00 pm.

WHO: Industry, Academia and State Agencies
WHAT: Engineering and Manufacturing Workforce Partnership Seminar
TOPIC: Employee Attraction and Retention in Manufacturing and Technical Jobs
WHEN: Tuesday, September 14, 2021
12:00 pm – 4:00 pm (attending in person) | 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm (attending via zoom)
WHERE: FREE hybrid event | St. Cloud Technical & Community College
Room 1-358 – 1540 Northway Dr., St. Cloud 56303

For this seminar, the Minnesota State Engineering Center of Excellence and the Advanced Manufacturing Center of Excellence worked together with DEED and RealTime Talent to bring information to assist in workforce fulfillment. Speakers shared information about the current and future workforce levels, sharing various employer strategies being implemented, and an employer “deeper dive” workforce panel discussion.


Phil Arellano, Project Manager for Workforce Development
Phil has a passion for training and development, marketing and communications, public speaking and facilitation, and project management.  He has experience working with a wide variety of stakeholders in both for-profit and nonprofit settings. In his role, Phil assists colleges and universities, workforce centers, and employer associations by facilitating the use of and providing consultation on industry and labor market information, real-time data tools, and career navigation.  He facilitates and consults with employer collaboratives to execute talent management strategies to align workforce supply and demand.  Phil also manages RealTime Talent’s website, social media platforms, and marketing and communications efforts.

Shawn Herhusky, M.A, M.B.A | Workforce Strategy Consultant
Shawn is an author, public speaker, and consultant in Minnesota focused on talent attraction and retention, economic development, and issues of diversity and inclusion. Shawn earned his graduate degrees from the College of Saint Scholastica in Management with a focus on Organizational Development and Business Administration. He is also a Certified Workforce Development Professional with the National Association of Workforce Development Professionals and a Business Retention and Expansion Coordinator with Business Retention and Expansion International. Before joining DEED, Shawn was a manager at a Fortune 500 Insurance Company.

Jessica Miller | Workforce Strategy Consultant, South Central, Southwest, Southeast
Jessica focuses her work on addressing barriers to employment, connecting stakeholders with workforce development resources, and developing career pathways and sector partnerships for South Central and Southwest Minnesota.  She has twenty years of experience in Human Resources and Learning and Development in both the public and private sectors and union and non-union environments.

Della Ludwig | Workforce Strategy Consultant, Central MN
Della is a SCSU graduate and earned a Master’s degree in Management from St. Scholastica. She has extensive human resources, benefits, and recruiting experience in several industries, including healthcare and manufacturing. In her current role with DEED, she connects key stakeholders to workforce resources and supports businesses in developing strategic workforce solutions to drive economic equity and growth.   

Marci Jasper | Business Consultant with Vocational Rehabilitation Services
Marci’s passion for working with individuals with disabilities has spanned over 20 years in many different capacities. Most recently, her work has been focused on partnering with businesses on hiring people with disabilities. She works with VRS and our community partners on a statewide level to ensure the success of all individuals. Marci holds a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology from the University of Minnesota.

Click here to view PowerPoint slides of this event.

Click here to view the live recording of this event.

Professional Development Hours Available.
Contact for more information.

This event is hosted by the Minnesota State Engineering Center of Excellence and
Minnesota State Advanced Manufacturing Center of Excellence.

Winter – 2021 | Tools to Connect Industries and Schools

WHO: Industry, Academia and State Agencies
WHAT: Engineering and Manufacturing Workforce Partnership Seminar
WHEN: Thursday, February 25, 2021 | 10:30 am – 12:00 pm
WHERE: FREE online event

For this event, the Engineering and Manufacturing Workforce Partnership Seminar focused on “Tools to Connect Industries and Schools”. In this virtual event, there was representation from Design Ready Controls and Die Technologies to share some of their successful school connection tools, meeting many workforce needs. A Johnson High School educator talked about what they have done to connect with industry in the creation of their career pathways program, leading to student success in and out of the classroom. Finally, there was a panel discussion with the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) Trade & Industry Specialist, Executive Director of Midwest Manufacturers, and the President of Minnesota Precision Manufacturing Association. The panel shared some of their best practices and provided some ideas to help solve workforce challenges and/or student opportunities.

Jacob Willson, Electrical Engineer – Design Ready Controls. Jacob has been with Design Ready Controls since 2009. He has taken on multiple roles throughout his tenure, currently, he is the Director of Manufacturing and Quality Engineering. Jacob received his Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering and a Professional Science Master’s in Engineering Management from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Design Ready Controls is the leading supplier of control panels and wiring harnesses in North America. They serve original equipment manufacturers from many sectors, leading the industry in engineering capabilities, process efficiencies, manufacturing automation, national presence, and responsive service. They operate facilities in Minnesota, Oklahoma, and Virginia. All facilities are ISO 9001:2015 registered. They follow best practices in supply chain management and pursue continuous improvement in all of their systems—from collaborative engineering to process automation to communication accuracy and speed.

James Dolan, Human Resources – Die Technology Inc. & Nanotech Precision, LLC. James received an Associate’s degree in Medium/Heavy-Duty Truck Technology from Hennepin Technical College. Working as a Diesel mechanic until the downturn of the economy, James had an opportunity to make a career move in 2009 to the staffing industry. For nine years, James worked as a Recruiter and Business Development/Account Manager in the Engineering and Manufacturing industries. In early 2019, James was offered a position from a client to take over their Human Recourses with a focus on employee career development, hiring, and furthering the relationships with the school systems. Since James’ arrival, Die Technology and Nanotech Precision has sent three employees to manufacturing/machining training at the local colleges, has also had two apprentices and one internship, along with numerous employees going to specialized training to develop their skills further in the manufacturing and engineering industries. Die Technology Inc. is an innovative machining services and tooling manufacturer with an established reputation for high quality and precision since 1988. Die Technology Inc. designs and builds precision stamping dies, tools, and fixtures. Machining services include: jig grinding, wire, sinker, small hole and Micro EDM. Nanotech Precision, LLC, specializes in high-volume production of small and micro-sized components. Nanotech Precision is dedicated to meticulously machining complex parts that meet only the highest standard of quality. Specialization in Medical device components/medical instruments, Aerospace components, and Micro electronics.

Scott Shaffer, has been teaching for 18 years from Physics & Earth Sciences to Engineering, he currently teaches Aviation in addition to leading the career pathways program at Johnson High School, a public school within the St. Paul Public School district.  He aims to make high school education more relevant to personal career growth combined with experiences related to the in-demand jobs of today.  He works to connect students to a scaled education in high school towards a specific career field which will capstone with a work-experience with an industry partner.

Steve Kalina, President and CEO – Minnesota Precision Manufacturing Association (MPMA), a trade association that represents hundreds of precision manufacturers around the state, primarily focusing on workforce development support and legislative influence.  Prior to his role with MPMA, Steve was President and Director of Sales of Dynamic Group, a contract manufacturer and long-time member of MPMA. Steve is also a veteran of the United States Marine Corps.

Tim Barrett, Trade & Industry Specialist – Minnesota Department of Education (MDE). He and his colleagues support teachers across the state of Minnesota who provide Career Technical Education (CTE) programs for middle and high school students. CTE provides opportunities to explore high-demand career options and gives students the technology and skills needed for success in adult life. Prior to joining MDE, Tim acquired a great deal of workforce development experience during six years as the Director of STEM Education & Workforce Development with the Minnesota High Tech Association (MTHA). Over his career, he has organized and delivered professional development ranging from classroom engagement and STEM integration to use of data and technology.

Sandy Kashmark, Executive Director – Midwest Manufacturers Association. Sandy holds a Business Administration degree from Minnesota State University Moorhead and is a licensed health insurance producer. After 31 years with Midwest Manufacturers Association, Sandy Kashmark has a deep appreciation for manufacturing’s importance in rural communities and a high regard for the skilled leadership within those communities.  Initially employed as Administrative Assistant for the then newly established Tri-State Manufacturers Association in 1991, Kashmark has watched the organization grow from one regional affiliate with less than 100 members to a centralized nonprofit management structure serving three regional affiliates with nearly 500 member companies.  Kashmark currently serves as Executive Director for Midwest Manufacturers Association, Arrowhead Manufacturers & Fabricators Association, Central Minnesota Manufacturers Association, and Tri-State Manufacturers Association.

Click here to view the live recording of this event.

This event is hosted by the Minnesota State Engineering Center of Excellence and
Minnesota State Advanced Manufacturing Center of Excellence.

Fall – 2020 | Apprenticeship and Competency-based Education

WHO: Industry, Academia and State Agencies
WHAT: Engineering and Manufacturing Workforce Partnership Seminar
WHEN: 11:00 – 2:00 | Tuesday, September 15, 2020
WHERE: FREE online event

Northland Community and Technical College was awarded funding through the Minnesota State Advanced Manufacturing Center of Excellence to research, design, and implement Competency-Based Education (CBE) into a Mechatronics Program. This presentation highlights the details of this project and provides insight for others looking to implement CBE elements. A true Competency-Based Education model provides a flexible alternative for learners with features including open entry – open exit, self-paced coursework, and open classroom/lab hours. Northland’s innovative Mechatronics Program offers flexibility for students to set their own schedule and learn at their own pace, This presentation will outline Northland’s solutions to offer a CBE-like Mechatronics Program.

The Industrial Manufacturing Technician (IMT) apprenticeship was developed to meet manufacturing firms’ needs to upgrade the skills of the frontline production workers. The IMT on-the-job learning and related instruction are relevant in manufacturing settings ranging from food processing or metal fabrication to plastics or bio-medical production and can be customized to a particular firm’s criteria. Upon completion of training, workers earn nationally recognized manufacturing journey worker credentials. This presentation will provide an overview of the program.

Andrew Dahlen, Mechatronics Instructor | VEX Robotics Coordinator, Northland Community and Technical College
Heidi Braun-Kahn, Director of Training, Anoka-Ramsey Community College/Anoka Technical College
Jerome Balsimo, Executive Director, Minnesota Training Partnership

Click here to view the live recording of Apprenticeships
Click here to view the live recording of Competency-Based Education

This event is hosted by the Minnesota State Engineering Center of Excellence and
Minnesota State Advanced Manufacturing Center of Excellence.

Individuals with a disability who need a reasonable accommodation to participate in this event, please contact the Minnesota State Engineering Center of Excellence at 507-389-121 (V), 800-627-3529 or 711 (MRS/TTY) at least 30 days prior to the event.