ST. PAUL (AP) -- Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system officials are seeking more state funding to make the schools more accessible and affordable, as the state is seeing a surge in skilled trades training.

Chancellor Devinder Malhotram says while the system has about 38,000 graduates a year, officials feel the need to scale up operations.

The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development says the state had a 2.8 percent unemployment rate last month. The low rate is leaving Minnesota firms struggling to hire qualified mechanics, technicians and other tradespeople.

Malhotram says the state's 30 two-year colleges will help address the state's tight skilled labor market. He plans to pitch his funding request to state lawmakers this spring.