Local Employers Address Workforce Challenges at Solutions Series

Updated: February 13, 2018 10:37 PM

Some might not notice it often, but it's a huge challenge statewide - workforce gaps, and that was the topic of discussion at the Northeast Minnesota Regional Workforce Solutions Series.

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It's the first of three series being held for local employers, and the public to talk about changes in the state's workforce specifically in Northeast Minnesota and how to decrease that gap in the future.

"We're constantly looking for new full-time employees, and have noticed over the last couple years that hiring has become more of a challenge," said Penny Erchul, Director of Customer Service at Blue Cross, Blue Shield Minnesota.

The problem isn't one that she is only facing.

"We're seeing some of the demographic challenges," said Roy Smith, Director of Talent Development with the IRRRB.

According to Susan Brower, the Minnesota State Demographer the problem isn't going away anytime soon.

"We're moving into a period of really slow labor force growth, meaning it's going to be hard to find workers to fill the jobs we have and that's something that is just the outcome of our demographic of people aging," said Brower.

Finding solutions to this looming challenge was the purpose of the series.

"My message to folks today was, we're moving into this period where employers are going to need to become more and more creative about how they find employees and how they keep employees," Brower added.

Smith says the solutions will come with challenges.

"We live in a region where we have very highly-talented individuals that are running very large facilities, and heavy equipment, fixing those things, and so these aren't jobs you can walk off the street and take," said Smith."We can no longer just depend on high school graduation rates to fill the workforce."

However, there are solutions like collaborating with industry partners, and looking at underserved parts of the population.

"We need to move them in through customized training and other programs we can develop that are going to give them the skills that they need," said Smith. "I think the future is bright for people who have the right skills."

Brower says it will also take companies looking at their hiring practices with fresh eyes.

"They need to figure out where they are putting up barriers to finding folks," she said.

Tuesday's event was the first of three series. The next one will take place on April 18th.

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