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New group aims to grow workforce

FAIRMONT– Project 1590 recently launched a new subcommittee. Let’s Get to Work was created to address the issue of workforce shortages in the region.

The committee had its initial meeting last month. Its members include Amy Long, Project 1590 board member and Administrator at Mayo Clinic Health System-Fairmont, Celia Simpson, a Lead for Minnesota fellow hosted by Project 1590, Ned Koppen with Fairmont Economic Development Authority (EDA), Amber Patten with Martin County EDA, Kandi Menne, President of the Fairmont Area Chamber of Commerce and Tammie Hested, Family Resource Coordinator for Minnesota Valley Action Council (MVAC).

“We know that rural areas have distinct strengths, but at the same time, rural communities like ours typically battle against aging and declining populations which leads to workforce issues, including shortages,” Long said.

She added that this has an obvious impact on area businesses and that while the committee recognizes the concern, it also believes that Martin County is a great place to live and work.

“We recognize that there’s opportunities here and we want to embrace our quality of life and what we have to offer. Our mission is centered around developing workforce and making connections between individuals and businesses,” Long said.

Ultimately, the group aims to build a strong, thriving community and spark some growth. As the group is still fairly new, it’s building off of some initiatives that have already been started, such as what Fairmont and Martin County EDAs already work on daily. Long said they’re also building off of the success of ACE (Area Career Exploration) and MVAC’s internship program.

The group is also kickstarting some of its own strategies such as an alumni database which will capture information about graduates from all schools in Martin County. Simpson has been tasked with creating a survey for the database.

“We created a Google form and have sent the link out to graduating seniors, MVAC and the Chamber. It’s also being promoted on social media,” she said.

In the survey, people will provide their contact information as well as information about what career field they are in or interested in going into.

“They’ll receive recruitment emails from local businesses once we get that connection. In addition, they’ll receive a quarterly email about things happening in Martin County,” Simpson said.

Speaking of the database, Long said, “Our hope is that it will become a valuable resource to understand education and career paths post-graduation and over time will help us analyze and trend information to better understand career development support that might be needed, as well as retention of students who do choose to stay and work locally.”

Another advantage to the database is that it can become a tool for communicating with alumni for purposes of engagement and workforce recruitment.

“We want to foster those relationships between students, alumni and businesses,” Long said.

Let’s Get to Work would own the database but it would be able to support businesses with fostering the network with alumni who may have left the area and wants to come back or even alumni already in the area.

Another goal of the group is to routinely meet with both educators and other business leaders to find out what their workforce needs are and what skills are needed for the most in-demand jobs in the area.

“That’s a secondary goal after the push to get the database created,” Long said.

The idea to create Let’s Get to Work has been a long time coming.

“For me personally, in my professional world outside of 1590 with healthcare, I recognize the workforce challenges that we’ve had and that have been even more challenging post-pandemic,” Long said.

She said she has had an ongoing interest in getting something started, specially something collaborative for the community. She pointed out that Let’s Get to Work includes representation from the city, the county, the Chamber, MVAC and Mayo, which is one of the larger employers in the area.

“We want people to know that we exist,” Long said.

In the future, Let’s Get to Work wants to have some collaborative meetings with others who have a passion for or interest in talking about workforce.

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