graphic design for the Sun Post and NHCC's column

Throughout the state, employers are struggling to find qualified workers available to help meet their workforce needs.

The commitment of Minnesota State to meeting Minnesota’s workforce needs takes on a special urgency in the context of the STEM economy. Overall, the colleges and universities of Minnesota State produce nearly 80% of Minnesota’s graduates in trades, including nearly 50% of Minnesota’s graduates in information technology, over 60% of Minnesota’s graduates in nursing, and 96% of Minnesota’s graduates in manufacturing.

At North Hennepin Community College, students have ample opportunities to pursue STEM-related fields, including biology, chemistry, computer science, data science, exercise science, health and nutrition, math, medical laboratory technology, nursing, phlebotomy, and programming. Chances are that you’ve likely interacted with an NHCC alum!

One of the many points of pride at NHCC is our long-standing partnership with Bemidji State University, where students can pursue a bachelor’s degree through the Biology Transfer Pathway, earning up to 90 credits from NHCC and up to 40 credits from BSU. Not only is this one of the most affordable paths to a bachelor’s degree, but students can also participate in undergraduate research on campus, including the fly lab directed by Dr. Andy Arsham where students research the genetics of fruit flies.

In addition, faculty help NHCC biology students find paid summer undergrad research fellowships at R1 level universities and institutes, including the University of Minnesota, Mayo Clinic Graduate School, Washington University in St. Louis, the National Institutes of Health, Hutchinson Cancer Institute and numerous others.

The experience they get is priceless. “Students who do research learn how to approach the unknown, respond to intellectual roadblocks, think critically, and problem solve at a level that is difficult to teach without this experience. Undergraduate research experiences give students confidence to approach situations where no answers are readily available, and to persevere when ideas or experiments do not first succeed,” said Paul Melchior, biology faculty.

When asked about the value of a STEM education, NHCC student Riley Reed said, “To put it bluntly, the main value of a STEM education is a higher certainty of having a well-paying job upon graduation. But beyond that, I really enjoy learning the science behind how the earth and its organisms function. I am a biology major which will certainly differ greatly from math or engineering majors, but overall, we work with many facts, rules, and certainties of functions of our world.”

Lisa Sabasteanski, HR site lead at Takeda, a global pharmaceutical company who currently employs 20 NHCC alums, agrees. “STEM provides students with hands-on experience and helps to build their innovative thinking and problem-solving skills. We are delighted to partner with NHCC as we look to build our brand in the community, recruit top talent and influence the curriculum to prepare workers of the future.”

While we are fortunate to have great lab facilities on campus, investments in their maintenance are critical for preparing our future workforce. For North Hennepin Community College and all the colleges and universities of Minnesota State, the stakes are high. The outcome of the 2024 legislative session will directly impact the NHCC community. The top priority of our 2024 capital request is $200 million for asset preservation that would fund more than 100 campus projects across the state and address the most basic needs of our colleges and universities.

I remain hopeful that our elected representatives will recognize that investing in education benefits everyone in the state, including our students, our future workforce, and our communities.

Rolando García is president of North Hennepin Community College. Send commentary to

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