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Editorial: Immigrant hirings help state economy

No matter your political leanings and stance on immigration, Minnesotans are going to be hit smack-dab with the reality of a workforce shortage as baby boomers retire and the economy continues rebounding. And as a recent state report points out: Immigrants are going to be needed to fill those jobs.

The recent report from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development isn’t exactly a package of surprises. The state demographer’s office for years has warned that the shift was coming, cautioning that as the abundant workforce of baby boomers retires and fewer people are born to support the state’s aging population, our situation will be serious.

In an economic context the increase in immigrant population in Minnesota has been a plus and will continue to be so if we do thorough planning. The foreign-born labor force expanded by 40 percent from 2006 to 2016 compared with 2.4 percent growth among the native-born workforce, according to the DEED report.

This region will see that continued increase in diversity, according to state and census projections. Within Region Nine in south-central Minnesota, the State Demographic Center cites that people identifying as black are projected to account for the biggest jump in population growth by 2035 (much of the black population increase to date has included African immigrants); Hispanic or Latino people are to make up the second largest jump, and Asians third. People identifying as white only are the only racial group expected to have negative population growth in the measure.

Much of the immigrant workforce today fills jobs in the service industry, often because limited education is needed. The state needs to use long-term vision and do what it can to educate and train the immigrant population to tackle higher-level jobs as well. Some of that is going on, but more help will be needed.

Numerous technology and health-care field jobs are struggling to fill positions and that demand is predicted well into the future. The key to filling all the jobs in demand within this region is to educate and train people of all ethnicities to fill the gap. When immigrant parents are asked about what their children aspire to be, many of them say doctors, nurses and engineers.

Our state’s population is evolving and needs to continue to do so to stay relevant. Planning for those changes by all levels of government and multiple institutions and agencies in our communities will ensure that Minnesota maintains its status as an economically viable place to live.

— Mankato Free Press, Feb. 19