Minnesota companies need to prepare for a shrinking workforce, state demographer Susan Brower told a room full of St. Paul community and business leaders Tuesday.
Brower outlined labor force trends in the east metro at an event organized by the St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce. The situation is somewhat buffered by the delayed retirements of many baby boomers and Minnesota’s ability to attract international immigrants, she said.
In 2002, Minnesota began losing more people to other states than it gained, Brower said. However, the state is in better shape than other parts of the Midwest.
“We’re lucky to have a metro area that’s vibrant and that’s growing and that attracts people from other countries,” she said.
She offered some advice to the more than 75 attendees at Tuesday’s event. She said both high-skill and service industry jobs will be in demand in the future.
Businesses should focus on producing higher-value goods and services, she said, and education needs to align with labor market demands.
“We can’t afford to have people trained for jobs we don’t have,” Brower said.
Kelly Larson, chief financial officer at Summit Brewing — where the event was held — said the company struggles to find enough staff for maintenance and mechanical jobs.
“Everyone’s thinking: ‘Four-year college, four-year college, four-year college,’ ” Larson said, but often people who are educated in the trades are in high demand.
At the University of St. Thomas, a team of people study and align academic programming with market and workforce needs, said Julie Gacnik, the university’s director of graduate enrollment and marketing.
Gacnik said she was interested in the labor force growth data Brower presented, which showed the number of new people entering the workforce increasing by 25,000 every year between 2000 and 2010. But between 2010 and 2020, that number has dropped to about 8,000 people per year.
Companies need to be “laser-focused” on finding talent in populations that have been ignored in the past, such as teenagers, older workers, people with disabilities and people of color, Brower said.