Training the Next Generation of Manufacturing Talent: Minnesota State Advanced Manufacturing Center of Excellence Awarded $750,000 Drive for Five Grant to Enhance Manufacturing Careers 

Bemidji, MN – April 8, 2024 – The Minnesota State Advanced Manufacturing Center of Excellence (Center) located at Bemidji State University, has been awarded a $750,000 Drive for Five Workforce Initiative grant from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED). This grant aims to grow Minnesota’s manufacturing workforce by training and placing individuals in family-sustaining wage careers over the next 15 months.  

Equipping Minnesotans for Manufacturing Success

The Center’s allocation is part of a larger $20 million workforce initiative by DEED. This effort aims to equip workers for high-demand fields across the state, with a statewide goal to train and place 1,200 individuals and benefit 3,000 businesses within 15 months.  

“The Center’s goal is to strengthen the connection between manufacturing and education,” said Jeremy Leffelman, executive director of the Center. “We are dedicated to helping people develop the skills and training needed for advanced manufacturing careers, ultimately leading to family-sustaining wages, gainful employment, and contributions to Minnesota’s economic vitality.”  

The Center will lead the grant initiative, with Bemidji State University serving as the fiscal host. The Center will partner with seven Minnesota State colleges to recruit, train, and place students in skilled, advanced manufacturing roles. Colleges will work with local workforce centers, adult basic education providers, and manufacturing associations throughout the state.

Partner institutions include:

  • Alexandria Technical and Community College, Alexandria, MN
  • Anoka Technical College, Anoka, MN
  • Central Lakes College, Brainerd and Staples, MN
  • Hennepin Technical College, Brooklyn Park and Eden Prairie, MN
  • St. Cloud Technical and Community College, St. Cloud, MN
  • Saint Paul College, St. Paul, MN
  • South Central College, Faribault and North Mankato, MN

Each college will have the opportunity to utilize the Center’s foundational manufacturing curriculum, developed through a National Science Foundation – Advanced Technological Education (NSF-ATE) grant the Center received in 2009. This curriculum was developed in partnership with Minnesota State colleges across the state and was revisited, refreshed, enhanced, and approved by Minnesota manufacturers in 2019. This curriculum equips students with essential skills in safety, quality, manufacturing processes and production, and maintenance awareness. Upon completion, students will be prepared to take the Manufacturing Skill Standards Council Certified Production Technician (CPT) exam, earning this nationally recognized credential and enhancing their employment prospects in advanced manufacturing. Colleges will also utilize existing manufacturing curriculum as part of their program design and delivery.  

In addition to coursework, each college partner will link students to work-based learning opportunities such as manufacturing facility tours, job shadowing, internships, paid work experiences, and/or on-the-job training. This comprehensive approach ensures students receive both academic and practical training, preparing them for success in the advanced manufacturing workforce.  

Supporting Students on their Journey 

The grant will provide funding for direct training of students in advanced manufacturing programs at each participating college. Additionally, colleges will offer student support services, which may include transportation assistance, case management, mentoring programs, career counseling, and more. These wrap-around services will empower students to overcome potential barriers and confidently pursue careers in manufacturing.   “The Drive for Five grant will accelerate our capacity to support economic development throughout Northern Minnesota,” said John Hoffman, president of Bemidji State University and Northwest Technical College. “The Minnesota State Advanced Manufacturing Center of Excellence is an essential partner to us. It really is a one-of-a-kind partnership, and together, we are the hub connecting two-year colleges, tribal colleges, and schools with Northern Minnesota’s businesses, industries, and communities. Drive for Five is a critical fuel for this economic development engine.”

For More Information 

The grant program anticipates serving more than 56 unique students during the 2024-2025 academic years. For further information about the grant or its partner colleges, please contact Jeremy Leffelman, executive director of the Minnesota State Advanced Manufacturing Center of Excellence, at or (218) 755-4222.   


About the Minnesota State Advanced Manufacturing Center of Excellence  Minnesota State Advanced Manufacturing Center of Excellence is one of eight Centers of Excellence throughout Minnesota State, the state college and university system that was developed to serve the needs of industry through education and outreach. The Center is located at Bemidji State University in Bemidji, MN and is an innovative, collaborative effort between education and industry to recruit, educate, and train workers for dynamic careers in advanced manufacturing. The Center collaborates with industry, education, and workforce development partners to foster innovation, enhance skills, and establish career pathways in advanced manufacturing.   


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 Contact:   Jeremy Leffelman, (218) 755-4222,