Category: Success Stories
The changes a young adult can experience over a few years can be quite extensive and challenging. For D’Andre Gordon, predicting he would graduate from college this spring was difficult to envision when he moved to Bemidji seven years ago.
“I had big plans, but honestly I never thought I would be where I am when I was 14,” he said. “I am very thankful and fortunate for the opportunities provided to me by Rural Minnesota CEP to help me get to where I am.”
Gordon moved with his family from his native Jamaica to Bemidji in 2013 and now is on track to graduate this spring from Metropolitan State University with a double major in criminal justice and psychology. Looking back at his first years in Bemidji, Gordon said he was a teenager with plenty of dreams, but without the knowledge to begin pursuing them.
“Rural Minnesota CEP gave me the leg up I needed to be successful in both my college and career journey,” he said. “The program proves that the opportunity gaps that persist in Minnesota can be closed when young people are directly invested in and provided with ongoing support.”
Rural Minnesota Concentrated Employment Program (RMCEP) is a private non-profit CareerForce partner located in Moorhead, Alexandria, Fergus Falls, Detroit Lakes, Bemidji, Brainerd, Wadena and Little Falls. RMCEP’s vision is to inspire positive change leading to successful and prosperous individuals and communities through the power of work.
Path of Assistance
Gordon’s college career began at Hamline before transferring to Metropolitan State University. His experience includes internships in the offices of Minnesota Governor Tim Walz and St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter. He has been a Public Policy Advocate since January with the Catholic Charities of Minnesota. There, he has been active in well-being policies like homelessness and the associated barriers, such as the criminal system, voting and freedom of movement.
“This work is very personal to me and there is a clear need for this type of assistance,” Gordon said. “As Paul Wellstone said, ‘We all do better when we all do better,’ and life today is not always centered on the voices of those people who have the most need.”
RMCEP Has the Answers
As he acclimated to life in the U.S. at Bemidji’s Voyageurs Expeditionary High School, college became his goal. He soon learned all that encompassed the college dream was a daunting task. With parents unfamiliar with the U.S. education system, Gordon was confronted with many barriers, from the process of choosing a college itself to paying for college or even obtaining a job while in high school to help pay for his future college goals. RMCEP was there to provide Gordon with the solutions to his questions.
“RMCEP has always been there for me for whatever I needed help with,” Gordon said. “That started with finding a job in high school that helped me grow by giving me more responsibility to foster those college-preparedness skills that have made my college life easier.”
RMCEP provided financial assistance for Gordon, from covering the majority of his tuition to providing additional funding to further his advancement like automobile maintenance. And RMCEP coordinators helped him craft strong resumes and cover letters needed for job applications and were readily available to walk him through any decision-making processes that would arise.
“I am so thankful for their wonderful support because, without RMCEP, I probably would have delayed college for a year or two until I could earn enough money and build my financial standing,” said Gordon. “The best part about RMCEP is they have a strong belief in lessening the disparities in the state for those who do not have access to what they need.”
Gordon’s future plans definitely involve policy work, and perhaps foreign policy. He has applied to several graduate schools internationally and plans on applying to programs within the U.S, with concurrent degree programs in law and public policy or international affairs in mind. But he definitely is keeping his options open to working after graduation. The confidence to go with several options came from his time spent with RMCEP, he said.
“RMCEP helped me be confident though the times I felt like I was not doing enough,” he said. “They encourage you to dream big, but be practical by making actionable steps and to understand if you are putting in the effort, then you are doing enough.”
Regardless of graduate school or employment, Gordon is eager to be able to pay the assistance RMCEP provides forward.
“I hope at some point I can provide similar assistance of mentorship and finances to others,” he said. “I did not know what I needed when I was younger and I do not want others to be in the same position to be forced to choose less favorable options.”
Category: Success Stories
The nature of work has shifted dramatically in recent years. Much of the changes can be attributed to advances in technology, which help workers become more mobile and less constrained by geographic boundaries. Technology has also resulted in more automation, which can influence job availability.
Rural Minnesota Concentrated Employment Program strives to keep up with the latest workplace trends. As part of this effort, Executive Director Dan Wenner attended a National Association of Workforce Boards conference in Washington, D.C. this spring with board members Carol Anderson and Janet Green.
While in D.C., the CEP group visited with Representatives Collin Peterson and Rick Nolan as well as Senators Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar to ensure legislators are aware of the workforce needs of rural Minnesotans. “Our representatives and senators are keenly aware of the skills gap issues employers are facing in Minnesota,” says Anderson.
Some key trends discussed at the conference were: the challenges brought on by automation, labor shortages and helping youth establish a career path.
As more jobs become automated, the U.S. is experiencing the most profound shift in the economy in a century. With these changes comes tremendous opportunity for mid-level skill jobs, but employers are demanding an increasing level of education for such positions, which makes RMCEP’s services all the more relevant. “RMCEP has the knowledge and expertise to assist people in obtaining the skills they need to qualify for occupations in demand,” says Green.
Blue-collar jobs in industries such as manufacturing, construction and energy are facing labor shortages as many in the workforce head for retirement. But a skills gap also plays a significant role in the problem. A Monster.com survey showed that such industries are hurt more by lack of skills than automation. Real-time job skills training is being touted as a solution. RMCEP intends to continue to forge connections with employers to stay on top of this trend.
To solve the problem of underemployment among young people, the suggestion was to look at employer needs and “reverse engineer” a career pathway forward to those jobs. This means emphasizing job and career training in high school or earlier, putting more emphasis on channels like social media and directing marketing appeals to parents and grandparents.
According to Wenner, “RMCEP will continue its efforts to reach out to young adults to help them identify careers that not only match their interests but that offer career possibilities. This will benefit young adults, business and the economy.”
Overall, it was a productive trip, with lessons learned that will ensure RMCEP services continue to evolve with the changing workplace into the future.
Category: Success Stories
Finding a job isn’t an easy task. Thankfully, there’s assistance out there. Rural MN CEP has been helping match employees with jobs for nearly 50 years. Our locations throughout North Central and West Central Minnesota serve as an excellent resource for job seekers that want to improve their resumes and interview skills. We also organize job fairs to bring businesses and potential employees together.
Job Fairs are advantageous for both employers and job seekers because they streamline the hiring process. The face-to-face networking that occurs is valuable for everyone involved. Workers don’t have to apply to countless jobs without any direct contact, waiting weeks for responses. Businesses can meet potential employees and even conduct interviews onsite.
The events entail a fair amount of work for organizers, but the results make it worthwhile. We recently had two wildly successful job fairs in April, in Little Falls and Detroit Lakes.
Little Falls Career and Job Fair
The second annual Little Falls Career and Job Fair at the Little Falls Community High was a productive event. Forty-eight employers participated — and five additional employers are on a waiting list for next time.
A variety of industries were represented, including manufacturing, health care, human services, business administration and more. This gave more than 100 job seekers a chance to find out about a wide range of employment options in Little Falls and the surrounding areas. Several job seekers made direct connections with employers and even interviewed at the fair.
RMCEP’s partnership with the Little Falls Community High School provides a unique opportunity. Giving students the chance to communicate with potential employers and learn about local job prospects could influence their decision to stay in the area rather than move away. This year, 265 high school students attended the fair and were able to research potential career prospects, ask questions and learn about the best ways to develop the skills needed to work in their field of choice.
Detroit Lakes Job Fair
The Detroit Lakes Job Fair at the local workforce center was also well attended. Eighty-two job seekers had a record number of 42 employers to interact with and a total of 225 job openings to learn about.
Employers from a number of industries were represented, including healthcare, retail, service and manufacturing. Informational interviews were conducted with job seekers on-site and 72 follow up interviews have already been scheduled.
Job seekers expressed they appreciated having the chance to speak to multiple employers at one time. Several job seekers have reported they have additional interviews and pending job offers.
Businesses attending the event had positive feedback, such as “Keep up the great work” and “Better and better each year.” Employers say they are already looking forward to next year’s event.