Minnesota Chamber of Commerce Launches Initiative to Tackle Workforce Shortage
In an effort to solve the looming problem of Minnesota’s increasing workforce shortage, the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce has created the Center for Workforce Solutions. Operating under the Chamber Foundation, the business-led initiative will tap into key partnerships to provide research and programs related to addressing the workforce issue.
“Minnesota’s talented workforce is among our greatest assets and fuels our economy,” said Minnesota Chamber president Doug Loon in a statement. “But the worker shortage is expected to hit 239,000 workers by 2022 – that’s a very real problem that challenges business’ ability to stay and grow in our communities.
The Center for Workforce Solutions will be comprised of four components, each a different approach to tackling the shortage and its resulting challenges: RealTime Talent, MN Job Match, Business Education Networks, and Educational opportunities.
RealTime Talent brings together various stakeholders, including education and economic development leaders, to focus on the talent shortage. The division will provide up-to-date labor market data to Minnesota businesses and education systems to help facilitate market-oriented decision-making.
RealTime Talent has already conducted regional analysis, which include profiles of IT, manufacturing, healthcare and other industry sectors, as well as an identification of the most promising middle skill, living wage jobs. In the organization’s regional forecast analysis for the 7-county Minneapolis-St. Paul region, it was determined that the area alone faces a worker shortage of more than 62,000 by 2020.
MN Job Match aims to tackle the challenge as a job-to-candidate matching platform, helping connect employers to candidates and job-seekers to new opportunities. Meanwhile, the Business Education Networks addresses the skills gap, as it will provide students and would-be employees with guidance on degrees and certificate programs needed for available positions.
The Business Education Networks has connected businesses and local chambers with students, educators and workforce training programs in Winona, Brainerd, Waconia and White Bear Lake, to date. A plan is in place to accelerate the networks elsewhere, throughout Minnesota.
The center’s educational opportunities division will be geared toward ensuring long-term economic success by spreading information and fostering new ideas for workforce recruitment and retention.
The division already has an event planned: the upcoming Chamber-hosted “Workforce Solutions Forum: Growing Through Hidden Talent and Automation.” Set for May 9, the half-day program will explore how automation impacts all levels of production – especially as it relates to the changes wrought on businesses by a shrinking workforce, and how to tap into underutilized workforce segments.
Immigrants, as recent reports have found, could play a large part in filling the workforce gap. While Minnesota’s workforce has been affected by a steady stream of Minnesota residents leaving the state – 1,700 natives moved out of the state in 2016, as TCB reported last spring – immigrants have come to Minnesota at a record pace. More than 13,600 arrived in 2016.
“Without a substantial increase of migration to Minnesota in the future,” said researchers from the University of Minnesota, “the state’s labor force will likely growth much slower than it has in recent years, making job vacancies more challenging.”
Although it doesn’t appear the Center for Workforce Solutions has targeted immigrants in particular to fill vacant jobs, it’s clear the center plans to look at an array of solutions to the workforce challenge.
Bill Blazar, senior vice president of public affairs and business development, noted the Minnesota Chamber’s approach is to combine public policy and the private-sector.
“New collaborations are necessary to supply employers with qualified employees,” said Blazar, who will manage the Center initiative. “The Center for Workforce Solutions will pro-actively bring together and engage organizations and thought-leaders to mobilize our state’s employers – the players with the most at stake in ensuring Minnesota’s workforce is well prepared.”