Tim Penny: Professional growth opportunities can be found close to home

Published 5:10 pm Friday, August 25, 2023

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No matter what line of work you are in, chances are that when you look for professional development opportunities, you often have to travel to the Twin Cities area or even out of state to advance your education. It may also be the case that you end up paying quite a bit for these opportunities — especially once you consider the cost of travel and overnight stays.

At Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF) we take pride in hosting a variety of high-quality, low-cost training opportunities close to home for entrepreneurs, early childhood professionals and Community Foundation board members here in our 20-county region. We are currently gearing up for fall training events which will be beneficial to many in our region.

For the ninth year in a row, SMIF is looking forward to hosting the Entrepreneurial Bridge event, a celebration of entrepreneurial innovation in the region held on Sept. 26 in Albert Lea. Equal parts training, networking and inspiration, there will be a variety of speakers who will share stories and practical advice for businesses throughout this full day event. Topics will include how to utilize artificial intelligence (AI) in a marketing strategy and trends in rural entrepreneurship in Minnesota. There will even be an opportunity to hear from the new Commissioner, Matt Varilek, of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (MN DEED). Registration is currently open at smifoundation.org/bridge.

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SMIF’s fall events will continue with an Early Childhood Training series that launches on Sept. 12 and runs through Oct. 21 with a total of 10 classes. Topics cover a wide range of issues that are prominent in the Early Childhood field, including how to manage challenging behaviors, understanding the social and emotional development of young children, working with children who have special needs and developing creative sensory activities. Child care providers can even sign up for a class on how to write a child care handbook.

We know that in order to deliver quality trainings to early childhood professionals, it is critical to accommodate their schedules. Therefore, in addition to holding these sessions in the evenings and on Saturdays, these are also held in different parts of the region — in Owatonna, Faribault, Mankato and Fairmont. A meal is provided for free at these classes. One major benefit is that all these trainings are “Develop-approved,” so attendees will receive credit for participating, further aiding them in reaching their professional goals. This year, SMIF is also supporting Dodge County as they host their own trainings this fall in Dodge Center (these are open to professionals in SMIF’s region). Registration for all of these classes is currently open at smifoundation.org/ectrainings.

Finally, SMIF will be hosting a fall training for the board members of our 32 Community Foundations.

These are important professional development opportunities for these volunteer-led organizations which offer incredible support to their local communities. It is also an opportunity for them to socialize and learn from one another. This training can be what jumpstarts a new grant program or helps create a stronger professional structure for these foundations. We look forward to sharing more details about the fall training for this group soon.

SMIF’s continuing education opportunities have trained thousands of people in southern Minnesota over the years. We know that providing high-quality, affordable trainings close to home is critical for the growth of our region — ensuring that southern Minnesota professionals and volunteers remain at the forefront of industry trends and best practices.

As always, I welcome your comments and questions. You can reach me at timp@smifoundation.org or 507-455-3215.