MINNEAPOLIS - Engineering classrooms at Dunwoody College of Technology have a certain electricity about them.
Students get hands-on lessons in their chosen field.
Minnesota needs a lot more students like these, now and in the future, as the need for skilled workers in the state is on the rise.
According to the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), the state of Minnesota had almost 98,000 unfilled jobs in the fourth quarter of last year.
The last time that happened was back in 2001.
That means companies can't find qualified workers, because they don't have the education or training necessary.
But it's not that companies and colleges aren't trying.
"What I can tell you is the statistics about our job market are quite frightening," says Dunwoody President Rich Wagner. "When you think about unemployment being 4 percent, you know what that means? It means talent is a very scarce resource and companies are trying all sorts of things to find ways to access that talent."
That talent is being tapped, as businesses create programs that pair mentors with high school students - or internships with universities and trade schools.
Dunwoody College is investing more than $10 million on a renovation to amp up its old gymnasium to create additional class space for engineering students.
"Minnesota only has a handful of options for students to pursue an engineering education," Wagner says. "At the same time there are thousands of job openings in our state for mechanical engineers, software engineers, electrical engineers."
The move is motivated by a long-term vision for its future, and a growing need for skilled workers.
"I always liked to solve problems," says Dunwoody student Tommy Dao. "I like to challenge myself. One of the reasons why I chose engineering is, you know, you like to make something that's not working or to make something existing better."
It's attitudes like Dao's that business leaders hope grow, as our state tries to solve a shrinking labor pool.
In addition to colleges, DEED has nearly 70 workforce development programs.
And the Minnesota Job Skills Partnership, a state program, is helping to train or retrain workers to meet specific needs.