Jinny Rietmann: Growing business

Published 3:55 pm Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Is your business looking for a way to grow your own, tackle equity solutions, and build/retain talent?  Workforce Development, Inc. and the Workforce Development Board of Southeast Minnesota have a few solutions for you!

First, we are providing an opportunity for businesses to participate in the Inclusive Workforce Employer (I/WE) Designation for Southeast Minnesota.  This designation is the first of its kind in our area to provide employers with the resources they need to build/improve/maintain an equitable workforce.

The second Inclusive Workforce Employer (I/WE) Designation Cohort kicked off at the end of June 2022 with 13 employers participating. The employers participating come from different industries, have varying sizes, are located throughout the region, and came into this work at differing points in their Diversity/Equity/Inclusion (DEI) journeys. The employers in this cohort include Amesbury Truth, City of Northfield, Spherion Staffing, Faribault Education Center, Viracon, Gemini Inc., South Country Health Alliance, Workforce Development Inc., Northfield Hospitals and Clinics, Healthy Community Initiative, City of Rochester, Carpenter’s Union, and Ventura Foods. 10 of the 13 businesses report that they have met the “first” component of the I/WE by integrating diversity, equity, and inclusion into their mission, values, and policies. 5 of the businesses have completed or are about to begin their organizational assessments, with several others to begin soon as well, as they make their final decisions on which assessment to use.

All cohort employers have been invited to the I/WE Education Sessions that have been hosted specifically for the cohort, and organized by the Employment & Equity Taskforce of the Workforce Development Board. These education sessions follow the 4 primary components of the I/WE:

• Express a commitment to an inclusive workplace in their stated values, mission or policies.

• Assess how diversity, equity and inclusion influence their work and culture.

• Provide diversity, equity and inclusion education for staff and leadership.

• Allocate resources to support and sustain an inclusive and equitable workplace.

Another solution is Incumbent Worker Training (IWT) — a business-driven training plan with funding assistance for qualifying employers to improve the skills of their workforce with new or upgraded work skills. Workforce Development Inc. is providing an opportunity to southeast Minnesota employers to help upskill lead employees into a new title, salary, or benefit that they did not have prior to receiving new training through the Incumbent Worker Training Program. This training can also help fill leadership gaps with employees who have remained loyal to an employer, open up entry-level positions, and hopefully prevent layoffs.

Incumbent Worker Training (IWT) provides both workers and employers with the opportunity to build and maintain a quality workforce. The Workforce Development, Inc. (WDI) IWT is a business-driven program designed to meet the needs of an employer or group of employers to retain a skilled workforce or avert layoffs. These are two distinct, though not mutually exclusive goals, and may result in different IWT strategies and the types of employees selected for training. In both instances, there is an expectation that the incumbent worker will be promoted or retained by the company after they receive training. Ideally, this would also create additional back-fill opportunities for other workers. IWT can be used to:

• Help avert potential layoffs of employees, or

• Obtain the skills necessary to retain employment, such as increasing the skill levels of employees so they can be promoted within the company and create backfill opportunities for less-skilled employees.

The program is intended to offset a portion, via reimbursement, of the business’s cost to train and upgrade the skills of its incumbent workers. WDI is providing this to all business and employees in SE MN; however, the application process is competitive.

If you would like to learn more about either of these opportunities, please reach out!  Happy New Year and WDI wishes you all prosperity and a strong workforce in 2023!

Jinny Rietmann is executive director Workforce Development, Inc.