Summit Hosted to Resolve Shortages of Health Care Workers in Northeastern Minnesota

Alejandra Palacios
Updated: April 10, 2019 06:41 PM

Shortages in the healthcare industry are a concern in northeastern Minnesota. Workforce centers in the area are working on finding a solution to this with the help of those in the industry.

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The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, North East Minnesota Office of Job Training, and the City of Duluth Workforce Development, have been hosting the Northeast Regional Healthcare Workforce Summits since last year, where Healthcare employers brainstorm on ways to revive the industry.

The third summit was hosted Wednesday at the Mountain Iron Park & Rec Department. 80 people registered from 50 organizations across northeastern Minnesota.

"Top wages from most of our direct support professionals is only $12 an hour. It's hard to compete when they can go get a job at a fast food store or somewhere else where they can get $13 or $15 an hour," Jackie Conner, a program manager for the Residential Services Inc., said.

People in the healthcare industry from Aikin, Grand Rapids, International Falls, Duluth, and more, united at the summit to discuss solutions on increasing awareness and interest in the healthcare industry in hopes of avoiding more shortages from happening in the future.

"We've looked at grant funding options for scholarship abilities to increase flow of candidates," Shayla Drake, an employee with the Duluth Workforce Development Board, said. "We are trying to get information from other areas in the region to find out what their needs are in healthcare employment so we can take that back to the Duluth area to our committee because we are working on pathways for different jobs needed in the Duluth area."

The industry has been struggling in keeping people in healthcare due to a number of factors like pay, work benefits and competition from other job fields.

"Retention, once we have people how do we keep them so that they are happy because wages are a concern for everybody that we hire," Conner said.

The summit brings together people in the industry who personally know the challenges employees face. There's been a lot of brainstorming on recruitment strategies at the summits.

"Changing policies that help bring in workforce that we didn't realize were blocking employment like flexible work schedules," Drake said.

The feedback has been positive from everyone who's attended the summit. It's been an opportunity for the regional healthcare industry to focus on changes that need to be done to increase employment.

"Originally when we proposed this a lot of people gave us feedback that they'd be uncomfortable sharing their internal hiring strategies to each other but what we found is that people from similar regions have enjoyed the opportunity to speak to each other," Shawn Herhusky, a workforce strategy consultant with the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, said.

There will be additional summits in the future. Herhusky said efforts will be done soon to help address the shortage issue.


Alejandra Palacios

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