With the number of unemployed Minnesotans stubbornly hanging above 200,000, a recent Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) half-day “road show” at North Hennepin Community College was understandably focused on showcasing programs meant to help jump-start jobs.
Those include helping out-of-work Minnesotans find jobs, employers find trained workers, developers and small businesses find funding, and manufacturers get more efficient.
So it was ironic that the first question fielded by DEED Commissioner Dan McElroy at the end of the day was about how the state can ensure an adequate supply of trained workers in the right occupations over the next decade in the face of projected job shortages.
“In our country, we don’t tell young people what jobs to go after … But kids are smart. They see where other kids are getting jobs … what jobs pay well … what jobs are interesting” and gravitate towards those occupations, he said.
The larger challenge is in reaching out to parents, high school teachers and guidance counselors who can influence young students’ career choices, he observed, pointing to online tools that help students identify high-paying jobs.
The most recent multi-year projection of state employment through 2019 shows that nearly 640,000 positions will have to be filled over the next decade to replace workers who leave their positions, and an additional 246,000 positions will be needed to meet projected growth in the economy. The largest employment growth is projected in the health care sector, followed by business and financial occupations.
McElroy and other DEED representatives are visiting 11 Minnesota communities this summer, as they have for the previous three years, to meet with workforce counselors, educators, and public officials. Unlike previous years, McElroy has several new initiatives to discuss, many of them the result of federal stimulus funds, foundation grants or public-private partnerships designed to encourage economic and workforce development in the state.
Job training initiatives highlighted during the afternoon ranged from the Blue Green Alliance, which links labor unions and environmental groups to expand jobs in the green economy, to DEED-funded training for medical-records coders. Programs for business development ranged from Historic Preservation Tax Credits to Minnesota’s recently passed Angel Tax Credit, which encourages investment in small businesses developing proprietary technology.
Major corporate departures, such as Northwest Airlines’ merger with Delta that resulted in 1,500 lost jobs in the state, have captured negative press, McElroy said. “But we’ve had some good success” in attracting and retaining large corporate headquarters where Minnesota successfully competed against other states.
Among largely unheralded successes, he pointed to the Mosaic Co. spinoff from Cargill, now headquartered in Plymouth, as well as Ameriprise Financial, which split from American Express, and MoneyGram, which was spun from Viad Corp., both located in Minneapolis. In addition, Danish med-tech firm Coloplast and Nestle’s HealthCare Nutrition business decided to locate their U.S. headquarters in Minneapolis and Hopkins, respectively.