FCC Editorial Advisory Board: Public and private efforts help recruit, train and retain new employees
Solving the future workforce challenges in the Midwest will take collaboration and innovation from businesses, communities, educational institutions and government working together to recruit, prepare and train our future workforce.
In the midst of a global pandemic in 2020-21, "The Great Resignation" has resulted in a seismic upheaval in the Midwest workforce with profound effects upon workers and businesses. Forum Communications Co. reporters have been examining the economic challenge over the past week with a multi-part series, "Help Wanted."
The facts are simple: This hemorrhage of employees in the Midwest and the rest of the country is unprecedented. In November, North Dakota's unemployment was 2.6%, while more than 17,500 job openings were posted, according to North Dakota's December labor market report. Minnesota trailed closely behind with an unemployment rate of 3.3%, while there were more than 205,700 job vacancies, according to a November report from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.
There are many reasons for the large number of job vacancies according to the "Help Wanted" series: child care issues, a need to feel valued, an expanding "gig" economy, employer bias in hiring, fewer immigrants, a need for livable wages, lack of flexibility and mismatches between workers and jobs.
Add to those reasons the changing demographics across the Midwest, especially in rural Minnesota, the Dakotas and Wisconsin where the population is aging and the younger population often moves to urban centers. In Minnesota, 44% of rural Minnesotans are age 50 or above, which means the younger workforce is not always staying home.
The question is what can government and private businesses do to compete with the changing demographics, issues and trends impacting the available workforce.
Here are some suggestions:
- Employers must learn to embrace the era of the remote global workforce. The coronavirus pandemic has forced many companies and employees to innovate and adopt remote workplace policies. The impact is here to stay. Learn to take advantage of it where possible.
- Employers must learn to be flexible to meet the needs of their employees. Willmar, Minnesota-area hotel and restaurant manager Dave Baker said he now asks employees when does work fit their schedule. This helps widen the prospective employee universe for his businesses. Two Morris, Minnesota, companies — Superior Industries and Westmore Industries — will be hosting live walk-in interviews on Jan. 14 and 15 inside a fish house on frozen Lake Minnewaska near Glenwood, Minnesota.
- Embrace more public and private collaboration to help attract new employees to your region. Greater Bemidji has expanded its efforts BemidjiWorks | 218 Relocate, an online job search portal site and a relocation incentive package to encourage professionals who can telecommute to relocate to the area. And Greater Bemidji also offers a Community Concierge Program, which engages and welcomes new residents to the region.
- Two of the biggest challenges in many communities is affordable child care and workforce housing. Minnesota Housing is the state's housing finance agency working to provide rental workforce housing needs in small to medium-size cities in Greater Minnesota. In North Dakota, Child Care Aware is a training and information hub for child care providers and workers to build child care capacity in the state.
- Public and private entities are investing in specialized training programs to help train their future workforce.
With donations from Duininck Inc., Bernick Family Foundation and the Southwest Initiative Foundation, Ridgewater College's Customized Training and Continuing Education has purchased two CDL simulators to expand commercial driver license training in west central Minnesota. In southern Minnesota, Christensen Farms of Sleepy Eye is partnering with Minnesota State-Mankato and the state of Minnesota on training programs for communications, English as a second language and leadership.
South Dakota has developed an online hospitality training program to assist travel and tourism partners in training their staff. In North Dakota, there are registered apprenticeship programs providing a structured training programs combining paid on-the-job training with technical instruction in a highly skilled occupation in both non-union and union career opportunities.
The simple reality in the rural Midwest is that the changing world means companies cannot just run a help-wanted ad and expect potential employees just to apply. These challenges are not only a business problem and are not easily solved by paying higher wages, either. Growth is important for both businesses and communities.
Solving the future workforce challenges in the Midwest will take collaboration and innovation from businesses, communities, educational institutions and government working together to recruit, prepare, train and our future workforce.
This editorial is the opinion of the FCC Editorial Advisory Board, an initiative of Forum Communications Co. Its mission is to invite dialogue, support diverse ideologies and solicit smart, engaged opinions and viewpoints. Board members represent FCC news organizations in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.