A Southern Minnesota staffing agency and technical college have joined forces to bring attention to a growing problem identified by industries—the skills gap. Riverland Community College and Doherty Staffing Solutions are co-hosting a discussion, “Planning Tomorrow’s Workforce,” on December 20th in Owatonna. Southern Minnesota Mayors, Chamber of Commerce executives, college faculty, school superintendents, elementary and high school principals, and other community leaders from Albert Lea, Austin and Owatonna, and the State of Minnesota, are expected to attend, including a State Senator and State Representative.
Addressing the skills gap problem in Southern Minnesota
A shortage of skilled labor is causing concern across the country, particularly among manufacturers. In a survey of over 1,000 manufacturers, Manufacturing Institute’s 2011 Skills Gap Report (http://www.themanufacturinginstitute.org/
Partners in fundraising, education, and now economic development
Doherty Staffing Solutions Vice President Gauher Mohammed, Riverland Community College Interim President Kent Hanson, and Riverland Dean for Institutional Advancement Steve Bowron have long worked together to shore up the Southern Minnesota workforce. Mohammad, who manages the Southern Minnesota region for the Edina-based, family-owned staffing and placement company, has partnered with Riverland since 2006. Through golf tournaments and other fundraising projects, Mohammad and Doherty Staffing have raised over $125,000 for the college in the last 6 years, with most funds providing direct tuition relief to students.
“I’ve grown increasingly concerned about our ability as communities to maintain a skilled, job-ready workforce in Southern Minnesota,” said Mohammad, who lives in Owatonna and supervises offices in his home city as well as Marshall, Jackson, Mankato, and Albert Lea. “This has an impact on my business, of course, but also on the quality of life for all of us in the state. The key to economic development and good, middle-class jobs and careers is still manufacturing. People don’t realize that the U.S. is still far ahead of China in gross domestic product—our economy is very much tied to manufacturing and probably always will be. So, it’s important that we make sure students are aware of and prepared for the wide range of careers that are available. I think it’s crucial to Southern Minnesota.”
Listening to community, education, and industry leaders
President Hanson, whose background includes degrees in both educational leadership and human resource administration, is looking forward to bringing the different interests together in one room for the forum. He said, “I’m very excited to get these key players to the table—the Mayors, Chamber of Commerce folks, K-12 and high school leadership, plus companies and industry—to discuss a regionwide strategy for partnering to meet the workforce needs in the area. Riverland is very interested in listening to what the needs are of business and industry, and in working collaboratively to identify strategies to meet those needs.”
College graduates returning to earn two-year degrees
Dean Bowron sees the shortage of trained workers from the perspective of 24 years in higher education. “The increased need for skilled labor has been on our radar for some time, starting more than 5 years ago when the economy was doing well. When the economy took a dive, companies relaxed, but now it’s on the upswing and many companies are looking for skilled workers again.
“We find that parents and educators easily support students getting a university degree, rather than a 2-year college degree. But now some of these students are coming back to us—after their university degree—to get an education that will help them find employment. Companies need machinists, accountants, industrial mechanics, welders, auto and diesel mechanics, truck drivers, nurses, radiography technicians and other positions that we train for.
“I’m excited that Doherty is sponsoring this forum and getting more people involved from the industry standpoint. We’ll also have K-12 and higher ed leaders there. There’s a growing, upbeat movement with K-12 education focusing on career pathways beyond what is available at 4-year colleges. Now we have an opportunity for everyone to learn about high demand careers and imagine a new career path into some really exciting and fulfilling skilled worker fields.”
Community leaders convene in Owatonna
The event, billed as a collaborative regional discussion on the issue of planning a sustainable Southern Minnesota workforce, will be held at Owatonna Country Club on December 20, 2012. The event is invitation-only;
About Doherty Staffing Solutions
Doherty Staffing Solutions is one of the Midwest's largest and most experienced providers of contract and temporary staffing services. Headquartered in Minneapolis for more than thirty years, Doherty offers customized workforce solutions to companies doing business in Minnesota and across the nation. Learn more about our temporary, temp-to-hire, direct hire, onsite staffing management, and placement services at www.dohertystaffing.com.
About Riverland Community College
Riverland Community College was established on July 1, 1996 with the merging of Austin Community College, Riverland Technical College, and South Central Technical College. A part of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System, Riverland has campuses in Albert Lea, Austin, and Owatonna, Minnesota. Riverland’s vision is to be a regional leader in liberal arts and career-technical higher education and an essential link to economic and social vitality. To learn more about Riverland Community College, visit www.riverland.edu.