Rural MN CEP in Washington DC: Fighting for the Future of Concentrated Employment Programs

Rural MN CEP in Washington DC: Fighting for the Future of Concentrated Employment Programs Main Photo

6 May 2023


From March 25th-29th, officials from Rural MN CEP attended the National Association of Workforce Boards (NAWB) 2023 Forum to advocate for concentrated employment programs, network with other workforce organizations, and more. The team from Rural MN CEP included: Vicki Leaderbrand, Executive Director; Tina Jaster, Director of Operations; Ed Bolas, Workforce Development Board Member and RMCEP Board of Directors Board Member; and Carol Anderson, Chair of the Workforce Development Board and Member of the Governor's Workforce Development Board. 

Legislative Advocacy: Protecting CEP in National Law

In 2022, The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WOIA) reauthorization was passed by the House. Now, it awaits further reviews, actions, and a senate vote. Rural MN CEP met with officials to discuss the WIOA reauthorization, and more importantly, ensure that CEP language stays within the reauthorization. Jaster states that while CEP is very integral to economic development and health on local and national levels, it is in danger. “Over the years CEP programs have diminished and at this time there are only three left in the nation: Rural Minnesota CEP, Wisconsin CEP and Eastern Kentucky CEP.” 

Solving Challenges through Collaboration

The NAWB Forum is the nation’s largest annual workforce development conference, with workforce leaders coming together to brainstorm solutions from across the country. The aim of the conference is to discover different ways to tackle workforce dilemmas and problems. In the 2023 Forum, over 150 speakers presented in issue sessions, table talks, pop ups, and focus groups– all aimed at solving national workforce challenges.  

A main topic of the conference was WOIA, something that is very important to members at Rural MN CEP. Jaster states, “While at the conference we met with Congresswoman Michelle Fischbach, who represents the 7th District of Minnesota, and Congressman Pete Stauber, who represents the 8th District of Minnesota. We spoke with both congresspeople about local workforce initiatives and the WIOA Reauthorization, and more specifically, the need to keep CEP language in the WIOA Reauthorization.”

Jaster states that the CEP is a key part of the nation’s historic workforce infrastructure, and has always been aimed at helping organizations on a local level. “CEP’s have been part of workforce development since the 1960’s social and economic reform. CEP sought to make all the employment and training services in a given area available to those most in need.”

Rural MN CEP; Fighting for Workers from Rural Minnesota to the Nation’s Capital

In addition to advocating for CEP, Jaster states that the team at Rural MN CEP was able to participate in so much more. “We were able to take part in several breakout sessions that detailed successful practices around the country in workforce development strategies. Networking is a huge part of this conference as well. Having the opportunity to learn from providers is so energizing and validating that what we are doing is making a difference.” 

Rural MN CEP’s mission to advocate for CEP on a national level comes from their experiences with their own local community. On a local level, Rural MN CEP offers many different programs, resources and events that contribute greatly to workforce success. To read more about how Rural MN CEP is creating pathways for employees and employers, click here.