nathan mt

Joe Nathan

If you’re thinking about jobs, careers or employees, you have awesome allies. I met several of them at a Sept. 11 meeting of the Governor’s Workforce Development Board. They’re focusing on one of Minnesota’s most basic issues: jobs.

If you do only one thing after reading this column, I hope you’ll check out a terrific, free, user-friendly new website: It’s designed for students, employees and employers. It’ll help users understand possible careers based on interests, skills and/or experience. The website also describes the pay, education requirements and demand for employees in each field. 

For employers, as the website explains, “We are here to help you find, develop and retain the talent you need for your business to grow and thrive.” 

There are many reasons that good information is critical. Here’s one: According to David Senf, a labor market analyst for the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, today, and looking forward to 2026, only about 40% of Minnesota’s jobs will require education beyond high school.

“Shocking!” That was the reaction of state Sen. John Hoffman, who represents parts of Anoka and Hennepin counties. Hoffman told me, “We have to get out of the silos that have been created — K-12, colleges/universities/employers.” I agree.

Several things appear to be simultaneously true. 

First, there is a significant shortage of people trained in many technical fields. Loren Nelson is president of Aurelius Manufacturing Company in Braham and a member of the Governor’s Workforce Development Board. He told me: “Right now, just about every employer in Minnesota is looking for people. There are more jobs for skilled people than there are people to go around.” 

Scott Parker, a business representative of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades District Council 82 in Rochester, and Bill McCarthy, president of the Minnesota AFL-CIO, spoke passionately about union-created apprenticeship programs that help respond to shortages. What they’re doing is great.

Skills shortages are real. 

But it’s also true that we may be heading toward a shortage of good jobs. Megan Dayton, senior demographer at the State Demographic Center, explained that with the number of Minnesotans ages 16-64 today and future population projections, Minnesota may have more people working and seeking jobs than we have well-paying jobs.

That’s why that CareerForce website is so valuable. It can help youngsters and adults make more informed decisions. And we need to encourage employers to create more well-paying jobs.

Justin Terrell, executive director of the Council for Minnesotans of African Heritage and a member of the Workforce Development Board, and Felipe Illescas, legislative director of the Minnesota Council on Latino Affairs, emphasized the importance of outreach and inclusion for all Minnesotans. They’re helping do this.

Les Fujitake, Bloomington superintendent of schools, who I think is one of Minnesota’s most visionary educators, believes “Minnesota needs bold pilot projects breaking barriers among K-12, colleges/universities and employers.” 

Steve Ditschler, president and CEO of ProAct Inc. in Eagan, says many employers think “it takes too long for people to earn credentials.” He suggests a competency approach, rather than seat time requirement for some certificates and degrees. I hope the governor and legislators listen.

I also hope families and schools will follow advice from Madalynn Gerold, a career navigator based in Savage for Goodwill-Easter Seals Minnesota. She suggests with youngsters: “Talk about life, not just job. Young people think they know what a job is, so when we ask them what they want to do, they often have canned responses that aren’t actually aligned with their skills. We need to spend more time reverse engineering the career counseling conversation by asking what type of life do you want? Do you want to own a home? A boat? Raise children?”

Minnesota law requires that starting in the ninth grade, students, with help from families and educators, develop and then yearly revise post-high-school plans. The CareerForce website ( can help. 

It’s encouraging to see many people, a few of whom are mentioned above, working together. My only suggestion to the Governor’s Workforce Development Board is to add a few high school and college youth to this group to gain their perspectives. 

New approaches will help many more Minnesotans find satisfying jobs. That’s good for each and all of us.

Joe Nathan, Ph.D., directs the Center for School Change. He’s been a Minnesota public school teacher, administrator and PTA president. Reactions welcome,


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