Workforce grants could mean free job training

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It’s not just restaurants and retailers. Employers everywhere are looking for workers, which means opportunities for those workers to dig into what they want to do.

Duluth Workforce Development recently received $1.1 million worth of grants from Minnesota’s Pathways to Prosperity program. They applied for four grants, all of which were fully funded.

"It really started with talking to employers to find out where are the needs for skills? And what we’re able to do is kind of work backwards from that," Career Counselor Betsy Hill said. "So hearing from Essentia and St. Luke’s that they need medical office, people in patient registration roles and patient account roles and hearing that everywhere that hires CNAs needs them."

The grant money will focus on training people for careers in the fields of healthcare and construction as well as IT and manufacturing.

"The exciting thing about being fully funded in these grants is that we’re able to help people really at any stage of their entering a career into really, ‘I’m not really sure how the healthcare field, where I might fit into that, but I’m interested in it,’ all the way to, ‘I’m already in a nursing program and I need some tuition assistance to finish it,’" Hill said.

They have until June 2023 to use the money on everything from short-term certification programs to college credits toward two- or four-year degrees to bus passes or gas cards.

"This is a great time for reinvention," Hill said. "This is a fabulous time for people to kind of look around and figure out, what is it that I want to spend my work hours doing? Because chances are if there’s an employer out there you’re interested in, they’re looking for you. Whether they have a job posting out or not, they’re probably hiring."

The process starts with an assessment and includes one-on-one time with a job counselor. Hill encouraged people to reach out even if they don’t have an exact plan.

"There’s a lot of underutilized resources out there. We are recruiting people for these classes," she said. "So if people aren’t sure that they can attain their goals because, ‘Oh, I need to go to school for that. How would I do that?’ there’s a lot of help out there right now. We would love to connect to people who are looking for it."

You must be at least 18 years old and live in southern St. Louis County, among other eligibility requirements. You can find more information on the city’s Workforce Development page.

"There’s such rewarding work out there to be done, and you know, sometimes people just don’t realize that it could be for them," Hill said.