Minnesota's got talent ... but maybe not enough in the job pipeline


Business leaders in Minnesota are getting more troubled by a looming – or, in some cases, a present-day – shortage of skilled workers.

They're concerned enough that there's now a task force studying the issue. Finance & Commerce reports the CEOs of Ecolab and Pohlad Cos. have agreed to lead a "talent task force."

F & C says two economic development groups, Greater MSP and the Urban Land Institute Minnesota, made the announcement and cited the need to prepare for an impending shortage of young professionals in the Twin Cities. An executive with Greater MSP tells Finance & Commerce 10 to 12 members will be named to the task force in May and it should have a draft report this fall suggesting actions to take.

Warnings of a labor shortage have been building for several years. Former state demographer Tom Gillaspy told Twin Cities Business a major labor shortage was about ten years away ... and that was four years ago.

His successor, Susan Brower, issued a 2013 year-end report on Minnesota's labor market. It noted that an expanding workforce once seemed guaranteed. But the State Demographic Center now projects virtually no growth – perhaps 0.1 percent – during the years 2020 to 2025.

Aging is one of the main reasons. With more people retiring than entering the workforce, Brower estimates jobs may outnumber workers in the state by up to 100,000 in 2020.

In the Twin Cities there's another factor at play. Peter Frosch of Greater MSP tells Finance & Commerce that in the past areas such as Rochester and North Dakota provided the Twin Cities with a steady stream of young workers. But new job prospects at home now have more of those people staying put.

While the new task force looks at how Twin Cities business can brace for a shortage of skilled workers, many of those in greater Minnesota are dealing with that shortage today.

Earlier this month the manager of a recruiting firm in Willmar organized a conference on the local labor shortage, saying “We can’t continue pretending that it will go away, or worse, that it doesn’t exist.”

Last fall the Central Minnesota Manufacturers Association helped put together a similar seminar in St. Michael.

The Center for Rural Policy and Development said last year that manufacturing jobs in greater Minnesota are growing, but competition for the limited pool of skilled workers is the biggest threat to that growth.

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