Get on the Path toward Prosperity in Rural Minnesota

Get on the Path toward Prosperity in Rural Minnesota Main Photo

12 Sep 2022


Finding quality workers has become a common concern for employers across the country. In northwest Minnesota, that scarcity is growing and is one of the most significant barriers to future economic growth. The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) estimates a 1.2% loss in workforce numbers by 2030 as more of the Baby Boom generation leaves the labor force.

In response to that need, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development has committed $13.5 million to a Pathways to Prosperity (P2P) grantee program to provide clear career pathways to Minnesotans with systemic barriers to employment. The program emphasizes educational attainment and navigation services to increase a person’s employability and skills, leading to higher wages. 

“Pathways to Prosperity is such an important grant program for our state, and I’m thrilled with the extraordinary collection of organizations receiving awards today,” said DEED Commissioner Steve Grove in a January 11, 2022 press release. “It's the job of government to invest in people who face the biggest barriers to employment. These dollars are critical to expanding opportunity for Minnesotans and growing our economy.” 

Northwest Minnesota

One grant recipient, Rural Minnesota Concentrated Employment Program (MN CEP), received $400,000 to cover primarily training needs for residents over two years, from 2021 to 2023. The grants will be applied to helping residents in northwest Minnesota seek training, education and employment in four targeted industry sectors: Healthcare, Information Technology, Skilled Trades and Advanced Manufacturing. 

Debbie Grant is a career advisor at the Rural MN CEP Career Force Moorhead office and the Rural MN CEP navigator for the P2P Grant program. She offers outreach services, intakes, mentoring and more to connect individuals with area post-secondary institutions, training institutions and active employers to support the industry-specific training for the participants. A few of the institutions participating include the Minnesota State Community and Technical College System, with campuses in Detroit Lakes, Fergus Falls, Moorhead and Wadena, North Dakota State College of Science and Lynnes Welding, which has AWS-accredited test facilities in Ramsey, MN, as well as Fargo and Bismarck, ND, to train individuals and prepare them for welding careers. Currently, 22 individuals have enrolled in the program, with another eight in the application pipeline. The program aims to enroll 25 participants in the 2021/22 and 2022/23 financial years. Participants must be Minnesota residents, not in high school and seeking occupational skills training or degrees.

“Our target ages are 18 to 24, but we can serve others if they fit the application requirements,” said Grant. 

While the grant funding is targeted primarily for training and tuition assistance, enrolled participants go through several stages in the program, said Grant.

“The first step involves career assessment, abilities, planning and other counseling before moving on to the training component,” said Grant. “Our desired outcome is each participant can further their education or gain meaningful employment.”

Typical careers participants will be ready to seek include nursing, CNA, dental tech and medical tech in healthcare or Information Tech, cyber security and computer programmer in Information Technology. Skilled trade opportunities are in HVAC, diesel or automotive tech, certified welder, electrical tech and plumbing tech, while the Advanced Manufacturing sector includes architectural drafting, civil engineering, construction management, survey tech and more.

Mixture of enrollees

Many participants seek to overcome employment hurdles and come from diverse backgrounds, including the black, indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) community, single parents, disabled individuals and those exiting the criminal justice system. That mixture requires a significant investment in case management, with Grant turning to group meetings because many enrollees had the same questions.

“Each experiences some sort of barrier toward gaining employment,” she said. “Removing these barriers is a very intense segment of our work.”

In her experience with the P2P program and with area career fairs for more than a decade, Grant always saw students and parents struggling with the need to pursue a four-year college degree.

“Today, I believe they realize that the opportunities to achieve high-earning wages and jobs are available in ways that do not require the debt of a four-year degree,” she said. “The demand for these jobs is steadily increasing as our population grows but employees age out of their jobs.” 

Application info

For more information or to apply to the P2P Grant program, email Debbie Grant at CareerForce/Rural MN CEP at (218) 304-8715 (office) or (218) 850-1447 (cell).