Join together to solve workforce challenges

Published 10:03 am Tuesday, October 13, 2015

This week marks the conclusion of an ongoing series in the Tribune titled “Meeting the Workforce Challenge.”

The series started at the end of July and has delved into the struggles business owners are facing in the area to find enough skilled workers for their open positions.

There are hundreds of jobs available in Albert Lea and Freeborn County and not enough people to fill them. All business sectors are feeling it — whether it be nursing, manufacturing, truck driving or other industries.

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Our local economic development officials say one of the most often-asked questions by businesses looking to move or start in the area is if there are enough workers to fill their needed positions.

The concern comes as baby boomers are retiring and there are changes in graduation rates and population. It’s not only happening in Albert Lea but also in most of the southeastern part of the state.

Our series looked at the causes of these concerns and how local businesses are creating partnerships to overcome them.

We looked into one of the area’s greatest community resources, Riverland Community College, and how the college is working with local businesses to create programs that address gaps in the workforce. We hope our series highlighted the college’s major role in solving the workforce challenge and at the same time raised awareness of the benefits of attending community college.

As part of the series, we were impressed to meet and talk with numerous Riverland students and alumni who have found great success thanks to their education. The college works with traditional students, adult learners who are coming back to college after a layoff or career change and even students from overseas, who came to the United States to learn English and a degree.

This week we will look at Riverland’s direction for the future of the Albert Lea campus.

All of this came as Riverland celebrated its 75th anniversary.

In the next few weeks, the discussion about the workforce shortage will expand even further.

From 6 to 8 p.m. on Oct. 21, an event will be held at Riverland Community College addressing the need for health care workers. The event is for highschoolers and others interested in pursuing training as a licensed practical nurse, patient care assistant or certified nursing assistant.

From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Oct. 29, a group called SE MN Together will host a community conversation about the workforce shortage and begin to develop solutions.

Hopefully, both of these events will be well attended, and the community will step up to the plate to find solutions.

I hope this workforce series helped bring awareness to the workforce concerns at hand and encourages solutions and changes in legislation to encourage economic growth in the state.

It’s time to do more than simply talk about the concerns. It is time to come together to make solutions.


Sarah Stultz is the managing editor of the Tribune. Her columns run every Tuesday.