September is Workforce Development Month


September is Workforce Development Month, a time to honor workforce development leaders and staff across Minnesota, as well as draw attention to the resources available to those looking for work, wanting to prepare for in-demand employment or exploring their career options. The state of Minnesota recognizes that investment in the education, training and career advancement of Minnesota’s workforce is crucial to the ability of our state to compete in the global economy. In Minnesota, the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) and its business and nonprofit partners throughout the state lead these important efforts.

Minnesota’s unemployment rate for July is at 3.9%, nearly where it was before the pandemic hit in early 2020. But the unemployment rate is only part of the story. Minnesota’s labor force participation rate was 67.8% in July, significantly higher than the national rate of 61.7%, but down from Minnesota’s rate of 70.2% right before the pandemic. That drop of 2.4 percentage points translates to 87,050 Minnesotans no longer working or looking for work.

“At DEED we are working to increase Minnesota’s labor force participation rate, but we know there are many reasons why some Minnesotans have at least temporarily left the labor force,” said DEED Commissioner Steve Grove. “Many people are concerned about contracting COVID-19, others have struggled with child care, and often there is a mismatch between the skills and location of people looking for work and the types of jobs available now. At DEED we’re working to overcome these barriers and help people find work that is a good fit for them and help Minnesota employers find the workers they need to succeed.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed Minnesota’s labor market in unprecedented ways, starting with the largest and fastest job loss in state history to the steepest, followed by the swiftest employment recovery Minnesota has ever witnessed following a recession. Currently, there are tens of thousands of jobs available across the state and employers are struggling to find workers to fill them due to a variety of factors. In some cases, workers may need to gain new skills to find a job in their area that meets their family’s needs. Collaboration between the workforce system and business, education, and private-public partners is critical to align training and workforce needs.

“Never in recent memory have investments in our state’s workforce development and the need to innovate to adapt to rapid changes been more important,” said Grove. “Thanks to bipartisan support in the state legislature last session, Minnesota has made significant additional investments to help Minnesotans who are underemployed or who have barriers to employment get the training they need to get hired in jobs that are in high demand and on a promising career path.”

Throughout the pandemic, DEED staff have been working to connect more Minnesotans who are out of work with employment and resources to help them prepare for employment including local training programs and Adult Basic Education. DEED staff have made more than 70,000 phone calls to Minnesotans receiving unemployment benefits. In every conversation, staff shared information about CareerForce resources that could help them find employment.

CareerForce is Minnesota’s workforce system and is made up of DEED staff and workforce development partners around the state who are offering services over the phone, online in person by appointment. CareerForce is helping people leverage transferable skills to move to new in-demand careers when they can’t find work in their previous field, which is especially essential now as federal enhanced unemployment benefits end in early September. CareerForce staff are also helping Minnesotans work on their resumes, prepare for job interviews and network to find employment now.

Even before the pandemic, there were major changes underway in Minnesota’s workforce due to dramatic demographic changes in our state and across the country. In Minnesota, more than a half million people will reach the age of 65 between 2015 and 2035, leading to a decline in the share of the working age population from 62% to 57% during that time. In addition, by 2035, one in four Minnesotans will be from a community of color or Indigenous population.

Bringing all Minnesotans who need sustainable employment into the workforce will help address employment and economic disparities faced by some Minnesotans that have a negative impact on all state residents. DEED has established strategic objectives to tackle disparities, modernize our offerings and sharpen our focus on meeting the needs of employers. 


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