MINNEAPOLIS — Former Maine Gov. John R. “Jock” McKernan hosted members of the state’s delegation to the Republican National Convention Wednesday for a reception that featured gourmet food and a discussion of the importance of focusing on career preparation in higher education.

McKernan is the executive chairman of Education Management Corp., one of the nation’s largest providers of private postsecondary career-focused education in North America. The company has almost 90 locations in 26 U.S. states and Canada and an enrollment of almost 100,000 full-, part-time and online students.

The Art Institutes International Minnesota, where the reception was held, focuses on teaching culinary skills, fashion design, media arts and graphic design.

The delegates feasted on food prepared by culinary students of the school — smoked salmon, veal Oscar, pork loin with rhubarb apple chutney, pate, applewood-smoked scallops, cookies, pastries and strawberries dipped in chocolate.

McKernan pointed out there were also small puff pastries stuffed with Maine lobster meat.

McKernan, who was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in the same year as Republican presidential nominee John McCain, told the delegates McCain “is one of those Republicans who is committed to higher education.”

The former Maine governor said giving people the skills to get a good job is the best kind of social program. He said institutions like this one in Minneapolis are giving students “the skills they need for the 21st Century economy.”

Harris Miller, president of the Career Colleges Association, which was a joint sponsor of Wednesday’s reception, called McKernan “A great member of Congress, a great governor of Maine … and we’re so fortunate that he has turned his attention to higher education.”