Guest Column: What happened in the business world in 2016?

Published 9:23 am Monday, January 2, 2017

Valerie Kvale is placement specialist at Freeborn County, Workforce Development Inc. and chairwoman of the Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce Business Education Partnership Committee.

Guest Column by Valerie Kvale

2016 has been a busy year in the employment world. The Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce Business Education Partnership Committee is committed to working with area businesses, education and organizations to reach out and educate. First, some statistics to consider:

Valerie Kvale

Valerie Kvale

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• The average Freeborn County unemployment rate for the last 12 months is 3.76 percent, according to  To some, that might sound like we’re in great shape in our area, but this number does not include all categories of those not currently working.

• According to statistics from, the average number of job postings for the last six months, within 25 miles of the 56007 zip code shows that there were 476 full-time job postings (this number could include multiple positions per post). Change that mileage to 10 miles within 56007, and the number shows 157 job postings. These numbers do not include part-time listings.

• Workforce Development Inc. has a subscription to a larger data-mining website, CEB Talent Neuron Solutions.  According to that source, the top 10 industries (in order of 1-10) with openings within Freeborn County includes: transportation/warehousing, retail trade, administrative/support, health care and social assistance, accommodation/food service, manufacturing, finance/insurance, construction, educational services and wholesale trade. 

The committee has been involved in many activities to help impact these numbers. Educating students and the public about the amazing job opportunities and career fields is critical. Providing opportunities to bring employers and jobseekers together is also vital. Many very rewarding and lucrative careers require two years (or less) of education. Here are some of the highlights:

• Job and career fairs:  ALHS hosted a Young Adult Job Fair during parent/teacher conferences. At this first-time event, 15-plus businesses came together to recruit young adults. A very successful STEAM Ahead Job and Career Fair was held at the Austin Holiday Inn. Students from a 60-mile radius had the opportunity to meet with businesses from that same region. What made this so unique is that the businesses were encouraged to bring an activity that would represent their industry: students tried on equipment, experienced tasks or activities that they might encounter in that field and talked with employers. Albert Lea also held their annual spring regional job fair at Northbridge Mall in Albert Lea. Over 50 businesses and an estimated 150 jobseekers attended. This fall, Riverland sponsored a Career Day on campus where regional juniors and seniors met with program reps, businesses and attended sessions on careers with short-term training and careers requiring college degrees.

• The Albert Lea Workforce Center hosted over 20 hiring events, offering individual businesses the opportunity to meet potential employees.

• Albert Lea High School students have a wide variety of hands-on educational choices available within their curriculum, including: The Youth Apprenticeship program (now in its fifth year), Greater Education Project, including: classroom speakers, job shadowing and internships with local businesses. Students have tours of local businesses. Riverland College sponsors the annual welding competition. Area businesses donate time, talent, equipment and expertise to bring their industry to the students.

• Riverland provides customized training and development to businesses in a variety of methods and offers industry-driven programs of study.

We are fortunate that our community has so much to offer. There are jobs, learning opportunities and education available. Check us out!