Chamber Steps Up Workforce Efforts
Chamber network steps up private-sector efforts on workforce development
By Doug Loon
It’s back to school for students of all ages as they hone their skills for productive working careers. Rest assured, the Minnesota Chamber network has a keen interest in ensuring students are prepared for jobs in our changing economy.
The Center for Workforce Solutions was launched in 2018 with a goal of tackling Minnesota’s workforce shortage. Through leadership, collaboration and key partnerships, it offers programs to confront the state’s worker shortage, helping the state’s economy to change and grow.
Business Education Networks is among our hallmark programs – a proactive, data-driven approach to preserve and grow the local economy led by local chambers across the state. Informed by local employers and fueled by the engagement and partnership of students and educators, BEN programs connect employers with middle, high school and college students to make them aware of and prepare them for career opportunities in their own region. Each BEN program is locally created and distinctly designed to address workforce needs within their community.
Our local chamber partnerships extend across the state with programs thriving in Brainerd, Burnsville, Lakeville, Mankato, Marshall, Metro North, New Ulm, Rochester, Owatonna, St. Cloud, TwinWest, Waconia, White Bear, Winona and Willmar.
Our efforts to grow all our private-sector workforce initiatives were bolstered this summer with the hiring of Deb McMillan as director of the Center for Workforce Solutions. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Business Education Networks offer a multipronged approach to address the worker shortage. Here are some examples of local programs:
- CEO in the classroom: Business owners talk with eighth-graders about what jobs are like at their companies and the classes students should take in order to be ready for certain jobs.
- Career expos: Local employers host high school students in a trade show-like environment, allowing them to explore jobs and careers that are available in their communities.
- Teacher in the workplace: High school teachers experience training and exposure to specific industries by working at companies in those industries for a period during the summer. They use what they have learned to develop or revise curriculum to reflect the needs of the economy.
- Career academies. Cohorts of high school juniors are provided mentoring, specialized dual-credit coursework for college, communications and “soft skills” preparation and development. Employers participate in multiple aspects of this program. Following the first year of the two-year program, qualified students are provided internships with local companies. After the second year, students are offered jobs with local employers, or are ready to begin college with credits in the bank.
Since 2016, our Business Education Networks have shown 8,000-plus students real-world experience in their communities. We have worked with 15 high school teachers, helping to make their curriculum reflect fast-changing skills and practices used in the workplace. We have connected with more than 200 employers in the vast Minnesota Chamber network, building a talented workforce now that will help them continue to thrive in their communities.
We look forward to expanding programs like Business Education Networks that offer tangible, flexible solutions at the local level to address our workforce needs for today and tomorrow.
Doug Loon is president of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce – www.mnchamber.com.