The report finds that regions need to connect education paths with local careers and that local ties significantly increase the odds that an individual will have meaningful workforce participation in the same region where they graduated from high school. For example, 50% of students who attended a two-year college in southwest Minnesota after high school graduation had meaningful work in the region five years after graduating from high school.
”With workforce shortages impacting businesses and communities across Minnesota it is important to understand the journey high school graduates take to find their careers,” said Julie Tesch, CEO of the Center for Rural Policy & Development. “This report helps policymakers, community leaders, and higher education professionals think about what our state can do to train and keep tomorrow’s workforce here, especially in rural parts of Minnesota.”
A few key highlights from the report:
The percentage of SW MN high school graduates that have meaningful workforce participation in SW MN grows quickly right after high school, but stagnates at about 25%.
The percentage of SW MN high school graduates with meaningful workforce participation in Minnesota but outside of SW MN grows slowly, but increases as college grads enter the labor force and stagnates at about 25% 6 years after high school.
There is a consistent 15% of SW MN graduates at any given year after high school that are working part-time somewhere in Minnesota.
The percentage of individuals that have no MN employment record and are not attending postsecondary grows significantly over the years after high school. By 10 years after high school, over a third of the SW MN high school graduates do not have a Minnesota employment record.
Two of the recommendations included in the report are:
Invest in local ties: Invest in current (such as CTE: career and technical education) and new programming that ties students to the local area and increases awareness of opportunities not just for immediate careers, but also after graduating college.
Tweak current policy to compete with Build Dakota: The North Star Promise -- a tuition waiver program passed during the 2023 legislative session -- is a step in the right direction and can create incentives for students that are pulled to border states for college. A few tweaks, such as putting in a work requirement and allowing for local investment, would make it even more helpful to Southwest Minnesota.
Other speakers at the report unveiling today at Minnesota West Community & Technical College-Worthington included Nora Morris, Ed.D., SLEDS Director, MN Office of Higher Education; Eriann Faris, CTE Project Coordinator, LYFT Career Pathways; and Carrie Bendix, Executive Director, Southwest Minnesota Private Industry Council.
An executive summary of the report is here, and the full research report can be found here. Additional research reports, blog posts, and the Center of Everywhere podcasts from the Center for Rural Policy & Development are on the CRPD website: ruralmn.org.