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Summer of Jobs Summit: A Snapshot of Our Collective Work, and Key Takeaways

1/1/0001 12:00:00 AM

DEED Commissioner Steve Grove

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This past Monday, we convened workforce development leaders from across the state for a virtual Summer of Jobs Summit. Our goals: to share updates and insights with one another and to build on our Summer of Jobs momentum as we prepare to move into fall. 

We took some time to share our updated service model for helping Minnesotans, which is a critical part of how we’re innovating in the face of modern realities for training in the wake of COVID-19. And, we heard from some great partners on how they’re finding new ways to reach people in the tightest labor market Minnesota has ever had.  

Here’s a video of the summit, with some highlights listed below! 

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Highlights from the Summit:  

  • Mike Lang from DEED’s CareerForce division talked about key learnings from recent visits to all 16 Local Workforce Development Areas across Minnesota. Key takeaways: we need to continue striving to maximize services without duplicating them and ensuring that job seekers who need additional support to prepare for and find employment have smooth and supportive referrals.  
  • Dee Torgerson, who leads Vocational Rehabilitation Services, and Natasha Jerde, who leads State Services for the Blind, shared how their teams are responding to the needs of customers with disabilities. They’re implementing a variety of flexible service options to help Minnesotans with disabilities, who experience disproportionately high unemployment, connect with the many open positions employers have available.  
  • DEED’s Deputy Commissioner for Workforce Services and Operations, Evan Rowe, gave an update on efforts to make Minnesota’s online workforce development tools easier to use and more useful. One example: Minnesota’s updated Unemployment Insurance application recently relaunched with a mobile-friendly design and with most content available in four languages: English, Hmong, Somali and Spanish. We’ll continue to make major updates to our digital workforce tools to deliver better services and information to Minnesotans. 
  • Ben Baglio, Director of the Governor’s Workforce Development Board (GWDB) shared information about the GWDB’s efforts to help Minnesotans grow digital skills, more fully engage New Americans in the economy, and grow workforce engagement with young people. The GWDB is made up of employers, educators, labor leaders and others from across Minnesota who analyze and recommend workforce development policies to the governor and legislature toward talent development, resource alignment and system effectiveness to ensure a globally competitive workforce for Minnesota 

Jeanna Fortney, Director of the Minnesota Association of Workforce Boards, shared this feedback: 

“This was really good information today. I just wanted to say we appreciate you guys coming out to all the 16 local areas and hearing directly from those local boards and providers about what’s going on in their areas. And I appreciated Mike saying that one of the takeaways from that was understanding that we want to work together and not duplicate services and really complement each other. We appreciate that and we look forward to continuing to work very closely with you all.” 

During the second half of the Summit, we heard from some of my fellow commissioners and their strategic workforce partners. 

‘Earn while you learn’ is a really great way to help people quickly build in-demand skills while earning a paycheck. One important way to do this is through apprenticeships. My colleague at the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry (DLI), Commissioner Roslyn Robertson explained that we all need to do more to get out the word on apprenticeships. She lifted up Finishing Trades Institute Upper Midwest (FTIUM), a partner DLI works with to welcome Minnesotans to engage in a life-changing apprenticeship. 

“Registered apprenticeship is a time-tested employee program system that combines job-related technical instruction with on the job learning experiences,” said DLI Commissioner Robertson. “Today we want to lift up one of our partners who has been doing some really creative work in terms of bridging the gap between registered apprenticeship and higher education.” 

“We are 49% female or BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) and of that we’re really proud,” said John Burcaw, FTIUM “Registered apprenticeships are such a great opportunity for young people…careers in a registered apprenticeship are viable, provide a living wage and can provide the same stability as a 4-year degree.” 

A talent pool that suffers from significantly higher unemployment rates than the general population are people who were recently incarcerated. My fellow Commissioner, Paul Schnell from the Department of Corrections (DOC), spoke passionately about the need to provide opportunities to Minnesota’s “Second Chance Workforce” – and the great hiring opportunity for employers. Commissioner Schnell called out one of their strategic partners, Workforce Development, Inc. (WDI), which provides skills training while people are still incarcerated and helps justice-involved individuals find employment, with the support they need, after release. 

“We have to remember that for people coming out of prison who are system-involved, their unemployment rate stands at about 27%. That’s a shocking number given the state’s unprecedented low unemployment rate,” said DOC Commissioner Schnell. “So if we’re going to address the issues around repeat offending, we have to commit ourselves to creating and having opportunities for second chances.” 

“We offer different type of training opportunities. In southeast Minnesota, there is a lot of manufacturing need…lots of needs for welders in different positions,” said Nathan Jensen of WDI. The organization helps coordinate “accelerated classes so they are able to get the training done weekly within a week or two, all hands-on work with experienced educators, bringing employers to the classroom so they could meet those employers right there and hopefully making a good first impression, so they find employment that is so important to the process of avoiding any re-incarceration.” 

And finally, Dr. Devinder Malhotra, Chancellor of Minnesota State, shared goals for reducing the education gap between white Minnesotans and communities of color. Reducing this gap is critically important in achieving economic equity in Minnesota. 

“We serve about 300,000 students a year – and of those about 66,000 are students who come from communities of color, or those of Native origins,” said Chancellor Malhotra. “We are not only the largest higher education provider in Minnesota; we are also the most diverse higher education provider in the state... we take our obligation to prepare students for work and productive careers very, very seriously and we want to be part of the solution for talent development and workforce development. The disruptions that are impacting higher education are the same disruptions which are impacting workforce: changing demographics and technology, and globalization and interconnectedness among economies of the world.” 

During Monday’s Summit, more connections were made, we shared important information, and our mutual objectives were lifted up. I encourage you to check out this recording of the Summer of Jobs Summit. There’s a lot more to do to reach our goals, but Minnesota works better for everyone when we all work together. 

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