We all know the world of work is changing- gone are the days of getting hired at a company and staying for life. Instead, our workforce development system has experienced massive amounts of change, from dynamic global markets to shorter product lifecycles to increased diversity. With those changes, systems, employers, and employees need to change, too.
This topic brought together more than 120 business professionals, community leaders, and workforce advocates at the American Swedish Institute for Women United & Tocqueville Society event, “The Future is Now—Preparing Minnesota’s Workforce for a Thriving Tomorrow.”
“I came tonight to learn more about strengthening our workforce system,” said Emma Boyer from U.S. Bank. “I also brought my sister, who recently graduated from college. It’s tough entering the workforce for the first time, especially for those who face significant barriers.”
“A lot of things that I take for granted during a job search like having a stable address to put on my resume and a working cell phone are not things that everyone has,” said Ellen Wright from Ecolab. “The programs funded by Greater Twin Cities United Way are helping to level the playing field when it comes to employment.”
President and CEO of Greater Twin Cities United Way Sarah Caruso kicked off the evening along with Tocqueville Society Vice Chair Chris Burque and Women United Chair Sheri McGrath.
Speakers included Erin Olson from RealTime Talent, Otis Zanders and Paul Laumer from Ujamaa Place, and Rachel Speck from Greater Twin Cities United Way.
Olson, a research strategist, outlined data supporting the labor shortage and skill mismatch between workers and open roles.
“We’ve seen it coming for years and now the future is here,” Olson said. “We need to keep pace with change. Yes, our unemployment rate is low, but we still have gaps that exist when it comes to jobs that are going unfilled. These gaps are large, but in Minnesota, we are rich in programs.”
Zanders, CEO of Ujamaa Place, an organization that helps African-American men between 18-30 who are economically disadvantaged, spoke about how difficult it can be to find a job when the seeker is homeless, lacks education, and/or has a criminal history. One past program participant, Paul Laumer, told his story of graduating from Ujamaa and going on to work as a mentor coordinator.
“I met a group of people at Ujamaa who believed in me, supported me, wanted me to succeed,” Laumer said. “I learned how to navigate barriers that I didn’t know how to navigate in the past and in the process, I grew.”
Speck, a senior program manager at Greater Twin Cities United Way, talked about the work that must be done in order to close these gaps.
“There is no silver bullet to solve this problem,” Speck said. “We all have a role in building prosperity and it will take all of us to address these inequities that have been building for decades. We need to strengthen partnerships across industries and improve policy and administration of public dollars. Also, we need to urge employers to be introspective about their HR and management practices and ensure they are inclusive.”
After the presentation, attendees had time to talk in small groups about their key takeaways from The Future is Now.
“I think the Twin Cities community at large doesn’t realize there are significant gaps in the workforce development system,” said Amelious Whyte from the University of Minnesota. “People need to be aware that talent is being left on the table due to disparities and injustice.”
“Employers need to change how they think about job descriptions and seek candidates,” said Aimee Norasingh from Optum. “For example, if someone is trying to make a career change, they can be dissuaded by minimum qualifications before even applying. Being open-minded to a broader candidate pool has a lot of benefits.”
“I think the title of the event- The Future is Now-says a lot,” said Yamini Karandikar from Ecolab. “It’s a reminder we don’t need to wait to change something- we can act today.”
If you weren’t able to attend the event and want to act, you can still donate to Greater Twin Cities United Way’s Jobs for All initiative in order to equip job seekers with new skills that align with current employment opportunities. You can also view our Flickr photo album here.
Jenna Bennett is a copywriter at Greater Twin Cities United Way, where she enjoys crafting content for multiple GTCUW channels. She attended “The Future is Now” event at the American Swedish Institute on March 22.
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