Executive Director Deb Broberg of RealTime Talent researches and helps Minnesota employers, educators and nonprofit trainers align workforce needs with the emerging workforce in an economy that threatens to fall short of its potential for lack of workers within a few years. Broberg was a veteran operations and human resource executive at Northwest Airlines and Wells Fargo, and had her own HR business, before joining RealTime Talent, a public-private collaboration. This conversation was edited from written remarks and an interview.
Q: What is the purpose of RealTime Talent?
A: RealTime Talent helps create more informed, market-oriented decisions throughout the Minnesota workforce and education ecosystem to ensure the state's economy has the talent it needs to help Minnesotans prepare for successful, well-paying careers.
Q: What is the challenge, given baby boomers aging out of the workforce, of producing enough trained and trainable workers to fill the job openings today and over the next decade?
A: Over the next few years, Minnesota's population will grow at about one-fourth the rate it grew in the 1990s. By the year 2022 the state of Minnesota faces a 239,000-worker shortage — impacting all industries. We have employers struggling to fill jobs and people who want to work. We lack alignment.
This will further exacerbate the challenges employers have in filling job vacancies. For example, we estimate that by next year there will be a shortage of at least 62,250 workers in the seven-county metro. RTT has analyzed the workforce needs of six high-demand industry sectors with career paths that lead toward high-paying jobs. Each have occupations that [lack] enough supply coming from education and training programs. Jobs such as developers, registered nurses, welders, engineers and mechanics represent a few … that employers have identified as critical to sustain and grow the state's economy.
Q: We have one of the widest education, employment and income gaps in the country between whites and minorities. What is the challenge and opportunity?
A: Racial inequities must be addressed to solve the demand for workers and provide economic stability for all people. It is not just a moral imperative, but an economic one. Currently, about 20 percent of people in our state are racial or ethnic minorities, compared to 25 percent by 2035. If we are successful in eliminating labor-force participation and employment disparities by race and ethnicity by 2022, we could add about 57,000 additional workers to Minnesota companies beyond what we would expect under our current conditions, closing about 24 percent of our estimated talent shortage.
Also, without a substantial increase in migration, the Minnesota labor force will grow much slower than it has in the past. Foreign-born residents of Minnesota have been critical … in recent years, contributing [about two-thirds] of labor-force growth between 2010 and 2016. Immigrants are younger on average and participate in the labor force at higher rates than the native-born population.
Q: Employers say they don't need a four-year computer science degree for every IT position and that high school graduates with training can succeed in a variety of manufacturing, technology, health care and other careers. Are the community colleges and nonprofit trainers and others who provide certifications starting to produce sufficient numbers to start closing the job openings for bus mechanics, IT support workers, health aides and otherwise?
A: Changing the narrative to ensure students and parents recognize the income potential and longer-term career pathways of jobs that do not require a four-year degree is another opportunity that will help to decrease student debt and increase earning potential of young people. In the midst of tightening enrollment, higher education is beginning to explore creative options for students to earn and learn simultaneously, participate in boot camp models, or further their education in smaller steps. This re-imagining of education is taking place across the nation — it's a very exciting time.
Health care, in particular, is making great progress in both meeting the significant talent shortage and diversifying the nursing pipeline in the metro, building on success getting people trained, credentialed and employed in the industry using strong partnerships between employers, community-based organizations and community colleges. However, greater focus on youth, disabled, [minority] and displaced workers is needed as the supply of talent is still not adequate to meet demand today or in the near future. There is some evidence that's working.
Q: What is the risk to the Minnesota economy if we fail to produce enough qualified workers?
A: The economic impact is compelling, particularly if we hope to maintain previous growth rates. We have already begun to see signs of slowing growth. By 2022, this slowed growth combined with our anticipated 239,000-worker shortage could mean up to $33 billion of state [economic output] not realized annually. Approximately $12 billion in personal income lost, and around $2.2 billion in local taxes not collected annually.