WDI and Partners: Focus on Work-Based Learning Opportunities

Our methodical approach to help employers find ways to attract and retain more workers.

  1. Workforce Development, Inc., the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce, and Southeast Service Cooperative have partnered in creating a shared liaison position to help businesses connect with work-based learning opportunities and address talent pipeline shortages.  Lori Wright serves as a full-time liaison to guide and enhance the work-based learning work being done for both youth and adults throughout Southeast Minnesota.  Her work is focused on evaluating the specific workforce needs of regional businesses, connecting those businesses to local resources, especially work-based learning opportunities, and sharing the identified needs with the partners to develop a methodical approach to attract and retain more workers. Lori comes to us with proven project management experience, a can-do attitude, and a focus on results. 

What have we learned so far? A methodical approach is crucial to creating lasting impact. Southeast Minnesota is currently experiencing a large number of unengaged community citizens, under-skilled workers, baby boomers retiring, fewer young people available to replace retirees, and youth that are not aware of well-paying careers that exist in their own communities and not engaging in the workforce. In addition, there are organizations independently approaching this issue in silos due to limited regional efficiencies, processes, and resources.

Many of the great careers that are key to the economic vitality of Southeast Minnesota are in agribusiness, healthcare, information technology, and manufacturing.  According to DEED’s Occupations in Demand tool, there are over 275 occupations showing relatively high demand in Southeast Minnesota, with training and education requirements ranging from short-term on-the-job training to postsecondary education to advanced degrees.

Some area businesses have already become creative in recruiting and retaining efforts. New approaches include paying more attention to the employees they already have, increasing starting pay, allowing flexible work schedules and realizing younger employees put a high value on working for companies that create a meaningful and inclusive work environments.  Many area businesses are also exploring work-based learning opportunities in partnership with local high schools and colleges.  Lori’s role in connecting businesses with education partners to provide work-based learning opportunities and help get young people into demand occupations is invaluable. 

Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce, Southeast Service Cooperative, and Workforce Development, Inc.’s deliberate approach, working in conjunction with K-12 school districts, business and industry, collaborative groups, local colleges and universities, and local government, should help Southeast Minnesota stand out among other communities that are facing the same talent shortages.

To learn more about work-based learning opportunities and innovations, contact Lori Wright at LoriWright@workforcedevelopmentinc.org.