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Community Voices, January 2014

President Gores Community Voices Graphic Header

January 2014

The topic of developing and retaining a sustainable workforce has been a challenging discussion for the past several years. Minnesota employers are faced with an ever changing population, demographic shifts, educational skill gaps, and a tumultuous economy. Southwest Minnesota is not much different from the rest of the state, though we are fortunate that our agricultural based economy has not seen quite the turbulence experienced in other parts of Minnesota. Numerous state agencies, non-profit foundations and education institutions have identified the trends, issues and challenges, but a broad solution to the problem has proven elusive.

A statewide initiative known as the Itasca Project Workforce Alignment Effort is an employer-led civic alliance with representation from higher education, foundation, government and non-profit sectors that is working to ensure that the human capital available in Minnesota readily meets the foundational and technical skill needed by employers in today’s economy and out in to the future. This task force has been developing a series of pilots that if successful will put more students on educational paths that lead to jobs in high demand areas; will allow more efficient deployment of higher education resources; will reduce the skills gap and the amount of time required to fill open jobs; and generate a faster response time to changes in the labor market.

Locally efforts are underway to take a fresh look at how a similar style of collaboration can address the workforce needs of Marshall and the immediate surrounding area. Earlier this month we convened a team of leaders from our local higher education institutions, K-12 education, business, the City, and the Southwest Initiative Foundation to review trend data for southwest Minnesota and move forward in finding a solution to our workforce challenges. I was strongly encouraged by the spirit of collaboration exhibited around the room and the overall willingness to take meaningful action. Each educational institution, each business and each organization brings a different strength to the conversation. If we commit to working together and continuing meaningful dialogue, we can meet the needs of our local workforce, grow the number of quality jobs, and provide opportunities to recruit and retain residents to Marshall and the surrounding communities.

Marshall is a proud community that continually demonstrates that it is resourceful, creative and committed to defining its own sustainable future. SMSU’s commitment is to be as involved in that ideation and growth to the best of our ability. Recruiting and retaining students to the University is vital to our long term success and leads to young people staying in our community and calling it home - benefits to the University and the area. Whether it is simply facilitating the discussion, partnering with our sister institutions, or educating and training the workforce of tomorrow, SMSU is committed to doing our part to create a sustainable workforce for the Marshall community and beyond.

Published in the January 25, 2014 Weekender edition of the Marshall Independent.

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