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Lori Higgins

Happy New Year! On behalf of the MetroNorth Chamber of Commerce, we hope your 2019 is off to a great start. If finding employees is one of your business goals for the year, then keep reading, because we have an innovative program that you may find of interest.

It’s no secret that the workforce shortage is a huge problem. Certainly, there’s no magic silver bullet to solve this. But representing over 750 businesses and organizations across Anoka County, most of whom are experiencing workforce issues first-hand, we wanted to try to add to the solution.

After some discussion with our Workforce Foundation Board and District 11 Superintendent David Law, the MetroNorth Chamber decided to leverage its strong connection to area schools and work with teens: the emerging workforce.

In the 2018-2019 school year, we started a “Student Recruiter” program with Coon Rapids High School. We realized students usually heard about job opportunities through their friends – not newspapers, job boards or even Facebook. So we hired the friends!

Partnering with their DECA program, we established Cardinal Connections and selected two students to promote job openings suitable for 15-17-year-olds. The chamber connected with local businesses for appropriate job openings – everything from retail to restaurants to office work – and sent them to the student recruiters. These two student recruiters then used social media and other platforms to reach out to their networks. If students expressed interest, the student recruiters ensured they had the tools needed to succeed in applying – a resume, interview skills, etc. In just a few short months, six students had successfully been hired at local businesses, with a dozen more receiving some sort of assistance, like help with their resume.

One of the realizations we had was that students preferred employment close to home. Therefore, we reached out to two other high schools within Anoka County. Students at Spring Lake Park High School are conducting a special research project within their school about the program. And we have just started the full student recruiter initiative at Blaine High School, dubbed Bengal Link.

This program has caught the eye of local media. North Metro TV did a story a few months ago on Cardinal Connections. Fox 9 News ran a story about the Bengal Link students in early January. The interest that has been generated from this media coverage has been phenomenal. Businesses all over the metro have reached out to the MetroNorth Chamber.

We are very excited for the potential of this program and want to thank Districts 11 and 16 for their partnership, as well as acknowledge our outstanding student recruiters. The young men and women who are part of this project are already established leaders within their schools and hometowns. It’s a privilege to work with them.

If you hire teens or would like to learn more, contact the MetroNorth Chamber at chamber@metronorthchamber.org. Here’s a to fantastic 2019!

Lori Higgins is president of the MetroNorth Chamber of Commerce.

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