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DEED tells YMC Board no one is selling students on local jobs

GRANITE FALLS — It’s not that there aren’t jobs available in southwest Minnesota, but that there aren’t enough laborers to fill the open positions.

That is what Luke Greiner of the Department of Employment and Economic Development told the Yellow Medicine County commissioners at their Tuesday board meeting.

“I surveyed 10th-graders at an employment fair,” Greiner said. “They said that 75 percent of them wanted to live and work in their own communities after graduation. Only 25 percent of them wanted to move away.”

Unfortunately, the opposite is happening because they do not see job opportunities in their fields.

The problem, he said, was that no one, not their teachers or parents, was telling them about the good job opportunities that would keep them in their hometown. With a 2 percent unemployment rate, he said, there were plenty of job openings available. And, if they aren’t filled, many businesses end up folding because of lack of a work force.

Our biggest challenge is to tell students what jobs they could train for to stay in town,” Greiner said. “The schools are all promoting four-year college degrees and dropping industrial arts.”

If their parents’ companies would become the best employers they could be, he said, the parents would be telling their kids that and inviting them to work there as well. Successful companies have two and three generations of laborers on their work roster, he said.

To prove his point, Greiner brought up statistics from a Blandin Rural Pulse survey. It compared survey results from 2013 to those from 2016 that showed very little change in the impression rural people had about the economy.

“If people are saying, ‘We need more jobs in the area,’ are they discounting the jobs that don’t pay well?” he asked.

To refute that as well, Greiner brought out a Job Vacancies Chart for second quarter 2017 that said that 7 in 10 openings were in occupations such as transportation and material moving and building and grounds cleaning; they have higher per hour wages than office work or personal care and service positions. Wages for these positions range from $11 to $18 per hour, which are all higher than the minimum wage of $9.65 per hour in Minnesota, according to Minimum-Wage.org.

“Opportunity can be approached in many different ways,” the chart said.

Greiner asked how do we get our companies to be more desirable? This and other questions are being considered to improve perceptions of the rural economy.

“You deal with a lot of misconceptions,” he said. “If students really want to live and work here, we should help them with that. Companies should recruit their current employees’ children even if it means selling the area to their workers, who in turn, will sell it to their kids.

“What worker is going to tell their kid to come work with me unless it really is a good place to work,” Greiner said. “It behooves employers to be the best they can be.”

The YMC Board took no action on this topic at this time.

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