Group highlights local social life to future employees

Published 9:36 am Thursday, January 26, 2017

Albert Lea officials have said attracting workers to the area is challenging. When employers do attract employees, they have a hard time retaining them due to a lack of social opportunities outside of work, city officials said.

Community leaders are working on that.

Assistant City Manager Jerry Gabrielatos discussed a recently formed group, Gather, to community, business and government leaders at the annual Greater Jobs Inc. meeting Wednesday at Wedgewood Cove Golf Club.

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Gather, open to everyone but focused on single adults, meets once a month for activities.

The group, formed by Gabrielatos, Meraki Studios Owner Holly Karsjens and Sarah Hensley, met at Green Mill Restaurant for a college football game last fall and will meet Feb. 4 for The Big Freeze.

“The intent is to sort of also display all of the opportunities there are to do cool things in Albert Lea,” Gabrielatos said.

Rock climbing, butter churning and book clubs are also possible activities for group members to participate in, he said.

“Meeting someone at a bar or restaurant isn’t the easiest thing … but if you have an activity that you are all centered around, it’s not as difficult to say, ‘Yeah, I read that chapter of that book, too, why don’t we discuss this at our next book club?’”

The group has a Facebook page and an email list.

Gabrielatos also discussed the city’s recent approach to alleviating the city’s labor shortage by reaching out to local colleges like Waldorf University, Riverland Community College and North Iowa Area Community College.

The program aims to provide opportunities for college students to intern, job shadow or be mentored by businesses in Albert Lea.

Gabrielatos discussed the process in forming the approach.

“It’s been successful so far,” he said. “This could be an opportunity to sort of scout colleges and just say, ‘Well, you might have an interest in this, why don’t you come up to this business and spend three months here or a week here and decide if you like it?’”

Gabrielatos said a Waldorf student visited Albert Lea Mayor Vern Rasmussen Jr. and City Manager Chad Adams.

“The intent is really to leverage the talent that’s at all of these places, and then see if you can use it in your businesses,” Gabrielatos said.

He wants to possibly expand the collaboration to universities such as Minnesota State University-Mankato, University of Minnesota, University of Minnesota-Rochester and Iowa State University once a website is completed to help connect participating Albert Lea employers to universities.

“These are platforms,” Gabrielatos said. “My hope is that the folks in this room and the folks that were in the room a week ago take advantage of them and leverage them. We can help build them up, but they will work with your participation.”

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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