The economic development group Greater MSP has launched a new campaign to recruit and retain top talent as a skilled workforce shortage looms on the horizon for the Twin Cities region.
The region has about 55,000 job openings and about 100,000 people looking for work in the state, said Greater MSP CEO Michael Langley. The challenge, however, is that the people looking for work don’t have the skills needed for those spots.
“We have great talent, but we know through our research that we’ll have challenges in the future,” he said. “We have to attract more talented workers to this region. We have to get into the hearts and minds of talented workers all over the world.”
Even if every child born here stays in the Twin Cities and has the skills needed for a job opening, the region will still need to recruit additional talented workers to remain competitive, he said.
Greater MSP discussed its strategy for attracting top talent Monday night at its annual meeting at the University of Minnesota. EcoLab CEO Doug Baker and Bert Colianni, CEO of Marquette Companies, are the co-chairs of the economic development group’s talent task force.
The focus will be centered on millennials/young professionals — the 20- to 40-year-old workers that will be in most demand over the next decade, Langley said.
Langley said other regions across the country are ahead of Minneapolis and St. Paul in launching aggressive worker retention programs. Some of the cities that have been successful in keeping and luring talented workers include Pittsburg, Cleveland and Austin, Texas.
Jamie Millard, co-executive director of Pollen, a North Loop-based organization that bills itself as a “digital platform that builds better-connecting communities,” also serves on Greater MSP’s talent retention and recruitment task force.
She said she’s excited about working on one of the task force’s key strategies — making the region more socially inclusive.
“I think of it as making the invisible network that is so prominent here in Minnesota — I don’t know if it’s the Scandinavian culture that makes our environment naturally cliquish — but there is something about MSP that makes it hard to break into,” she said.
She cited data indicating that while MSP ranks number one for retaining young professionals in the country, the region ranks number 14 for retaining non-white professionals.
Many jobs in the region are filled without companies posting openings.
“We’re filling our jobs through this invisible network pipeline,” she said.
Millard said there is a group of emerging community leaders working on addressing the problem. One of the goals is to identify 50 of the region’s top “super connectors” and make sure it’s a diverse group of people in a wide variety of disciplines.
Another idea is to create a buddy system for transplants to the region to make sure they are immediately connected to opportunities to make new friends and get acclimated to life in Minnesota, she said.
“We want to do hands-on welcoming,” she said.
Millard pointed to the organization Break the Bubble as work Greater MSP wants to build upon.
Matt Decuir started the group in the spring of 2013 after moving to Minneapolis from Seattle to join his girlfriend who relocated to the city for school.
Minnesotans are friendly, but aren’t often willing to embrace newcomers into their social circle, he said.
“Minnesotans will give you directions anywhere except to their lake cabin,” he joked.
Break the Bubble has hosted several events at restaurants and taprooms around the Twin Cities to help break the ice for people looking to broaden their social networks.
“Our goal is very simple. We’re trying to help Minnesotans make new friends,” Decuir said.
Diane Tran, project manager of Grassroots Solutions, has also been very engaged in efforts to make the region more inclusive and welcoming for everyone. She founded Minnesota Rising in 2009 — a network of emerging community leaders across the state focused on helping prepare the state’s next generation of leaders as the Baby Boomers are leaving the workforce in greater numbers.
She said she’s heartened that people are taking the social inclusion issue seriously.
“There is a very real other experience that people have of this area,” she said, adding it’s important for people to think about “who is not in the room” and who should be when having conversations about making the region a place where everyone can thrive.
In addition to spearheading a campaign focused on recruiting and retaining talent, Greater MSP will continue an aggressive worldwide marketing blitz promoting the Twin Cities’ many assets to help foster additional job growth and development.
Langley said there are many economic indicators for the region to be proud of.
“There is a lot of positivity about our region,” he said. “We have the lowest unemployment rate of any major metropolitan area in the country. Our job creation activities have increased dramatically.”
The MSP regional economy is the 13th largest in the country and rivals that of entire countries, he said.
Langley, who lives in the Carlyle condo tower, also likes to reference how many construction cranes he sees outside his window as a barometer of the economy.
When he first moved into the condo with his wife a few years ago, there were two cranes. Now there are 40.
“We know that’s a leading indicator for jobs, an increased tax base and more money going into the economy,” he said.