Duluth’s Workforce: Skills For The Future

Duluth’s Workforce: Skills For The Future

Duluth's higher education institutions are a big part of the workforce effort.

Duluth Mayor Don Ness has set an ambitious goal: Increase the population of Duluth to 90,000 by the year 2020. (That number is now around 86,000; in the 1970s, it was more than 100,000.) Essential to achieving that goal is building a diverse employer base so that promising young talent developed in the Duluth schools and the city’s colleges and universities will stay in the city. It also means luring (or luring back) skilled professionals, technicians, and tradespeople to live in a city that they love to visit—but never thought had sufficient job opportunities.

“Our mayor understands the strategic need for Duluth to have that skilled labor force available for employers,” says Don Hoag, manager of workforce development for the city of Duluth.

Hoag’s department largely focuses on helping dislocated workers and people who have trouble finding employment to learn how to get a job. But it now is helping with another effort: marketing Duluth and developing a database of people who have skills and would like to move to Duluth, so that the city knows what might be available for a potential employer.

Duluth’s higher education institutions are a big part of the workforce effort. Lake Superior College is part of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) system, and offers a variety of two- and four-year degrees in health care fields and other in-demand sectors. The University of Minnesota Duluth’s Swenson College of Science and Engineering has been adding slots and programs in the past decade as more firms tap the local pipeline for engineering talent. The College of St. Scholastica is yet another source of educated talent.

Several organizations are aiding the marketing efforts to younger employees. They include Fuse Duluth, a young professionals group developed by the Chamber of Commerce, and Connex Twin Ports, a program to link young talent and employers. With a wave of baby boomer retirements expected during the next few years, local leaders believe that the demand for younger employees will become intense.

“We think that the demand for people who wanted to live here has outstripped the supply of opportunities for a long time,” Hoag says. “But that’s starting to level out, and will continue to do that.”