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Community Engagement Sessions: What Did We Learn? What’s Next?

5/31/2019 3:00:00 PM

Deputy Commissioner Hamse Warfa

As DEED’s newly appointed Deputy Commissioner of Workforce Development, I started my new leadership role travelling across the state, meeting with people and organizations working to build an economy that works for all Minnesotans.DEED staff at community engagement session

I believe that leadership starts with listening, that’s why I travelled more than 1,300 miles visiting Minneapolis, St. Paul, Rochester, St. Cloud, Duluth and Detroit Lakes. For many of these stops, it was my first visit. I was amazed by how each corner of our state is working to address their specific workforce challenges.

Community engagement is a two-way exchange of information, ideas and resources. Oftentimes, community engagement meetings offer opportunities for communities to express their views and have a meaningful role and contribution in decision-making.  

My goal was to get a pulse of the priorities of each community, introduce myself, share information about our upcoming competitive grant opportunities and to seek feedback about our grantmaking process, in which we recently announced some meaningful improvements.

What Did We Learn?

Common themes emerged from these sessions, and we learned a lot about what our workforce development partners expect. No matter where I was, the overarching theme I heard is that businesses and organizations are concerned about our state’s tight labor market and labor shortage.

Participants in community engagement session To address this challenge, we need every Minnesotan looking for work to actively participate in the state’s workforce. At DEED, it’s our job to make that a reality through our various employment and training programs and grants. Here are some other takeaways:

  • Our partners in the field agree that the grantmaking process at DEED needs to be a bit more streamlined. Some partners requested a shorter timeline in processing grants. DEED is currently working on process changes as stated in the previous blog.

  • A lot of discussion and agreement emerged on the need to transform our workforce development systems, given that the population and needs have changed dramatically since the system was built.
  • DEED’s American Indian Liaison adds tremendous value to community-based organizations seeking to partner with tribal nations or organizations. Some non-Indian community-based organizations struggle with making connections that result in effective partnerships. They will benefit greatly from the technical assistance this position will provide.

  • Partners asked specific questions about their particular organization or region. This one-on-one time allowed us to open lines of dialogue about their issues, questions and areas of concern.

Partners also expressed appreciation for DEED’s authentic and proactive engagement. As one participant put it, “It is these types of meaningful conversations that will make our partnership with DEED stronger and more effective in our work for the benefit of all Minnesotans.”

What’s Next?

With this feedback in mind, DEED has already started to develop RFPs for the upcoming competitive grant cycle. It is our goal to release those to the public the week of June 3. Various webinars, as well as a question-and-answer period, will also take place for RFP respondents in June. The RFPs will be issued for the following programs:

Pathways to Prosperity (P2P)

Pathways to Prosperity (P2P) is an innovative strategy that integrates basic skills education, career-specific training, support services, and employment placement and retention to meet the needs of adults. The RFP will be issued on June 5 with a submission deadline of July 19.

Higher Education Career Advisors Pilot (HECAP)

HECAP is a program in Workforce Development that combines career and higher education advising. The RFP will be released on June 5 with submission deadline of July 26.

Support Services

The Support Services Competitive Grant program focuses on low-income communities, young adults from low-income families and communities of color. The grant offers job training, employment preparation, internships, job assistance to fathers, financial literacy, academic and behavioral intervention for low-performing students and youth intervention. The RFP will be released on June 5 with submission deadline of July 12.

Women in High-Wage, High Demand (WESA)

The Women in High-Wage, High Demand Nontraditional Jobs Grant program seeks to increase the number of women in high-wage, high-demand, nontraditional occupations including but not limited to those in the skilled trades, science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) occupations. The RFP will be released on June 5 with submission deadline of July 12.

Southeast Asian Economic Disparities Relief

The Southeast Asian Economic Relief Competitive Grant program addresses economic disparities in Southeast Asian communities through workforce recruitment and development, job creation, increased capacity of smaller organizations and outreach. The RFP will be released on June 5 with submission deadline of July 22.

All of our competitive grant RFPs will include helpful information for respondents, including boilerplate agreement language and risk assessment expectations. All RFPs will be posted for a minimum of 30 days.

DEED will also begin soliciting additional community reviewers in June, with the purpose of objectively analyzing and scoring eligible grant applications in our competitive grantmaking process. Community review panels, an integral part of DEED’s funding process, afford community members the opportunity to have a significant impact in their community. DEED recruits experienced professionals who possess subject-matter expertise and qualifications relevant to DEED’s program areas, as well as community members who have lived experience, to serve on the community review panels.

Participants at community engagement session, roundtable-setting Grant proposals will be due to DEED in July. The agency will work through July and August reviewing and scoring proposals, with a plan of announcing grantees by early September.

DEED is very committed to emphasizing equity in our grantmaking to address our state’s opportunity gaps and the ever-present challenge of our tight labor force. We are also committed to transparency, velocity and fairness in our grantmaking process, and we look forward to working with our partners in the years to come.

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