Accounting firm CliftonLarsonAllen (CLA) plans to hire up to 50 college interns over the next year, including minority students, to meet staffing needs in downtown Minneapolis and CLA's commitment to the Hennepin Workforce government-business coalition of employers committed to more diverse workforces.
“The internship program gives students  in our downtown community a start in accounting and an opportunity to develop long-term careers,’’ Reinhart said. “It gives [CLA] access to talented job seekers, who will in turn help us serve our clients across the country.”
The students, including from two-year colleges, will work for CLA supervisors and veterans in an “outsourced shared-services center” to which CLA is adding 100 people. It provides privately held companies with certain accounting, financial-transaction and other bookkeeping services.
“You are not required to have a CPA and four-year degree for this work,” Reinhart. “We can go to local community colleges that offer two-year degrees and help them progress from accountant to controller, and even progress to [certified public accountants].”
The primary purpose of the program is to meet a business need, with an eye to creating opportunity for young people and further diversifying the profession, he said.
CEO Steve Cramer of the Downtown Council and co-chair of the Hennepin Workforce Leadership Council, said the participating colleges are: Augsburg University, Minneapolis Community & Technical College (MCTC), the two-year Dougherty Family College at the University of St. Thomas, St. Catherine University and Metropolitan State University.
 “The downtown business community is committed to supporting the development of young students from our community who aspire to learn and be prepared to transition into the next phase of their careers,” Cramer said.  “This accounting internship sponsored by [CliftonLarson] offers an incredible opportunity to help current students achieve their goals. 
“This is precisely the type of downtown employer commitment to our workforce of the future that meets the goals of the Hennepin County Workforce Leadership Council.”
Several dozen public and private employers, from Hennepin County to Wells Fargo and Fairview Health, have worked on “career pathways” initiatives through local colleges, nonprofit job trainers and others focused $15-an-hour starting jobs, with a particular focus on minorities, the fastest growing component of the Twin Cities workforce.
Hennepin County, which employs 13,000-plus workers, and private employers have signed on partly because they need to fill behind baby boomer retirees. A third of Hennepin County’s workforce will be eligible to retire by 2025.
The growth in the Twin Cities workforce will come almost entirely from minorities, according to demographic forecasts
 “We have a chance to move people of color, [including] people disconnected ... to connect them to the growing economy ... and increase their incomes,” Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin said last year. “The private sector faces the same demographics as Hennepin County.”
Forecasts suggest there will be 100,000 more Twin Cities-area jobs than qualified applicants by 2020. There already are shortages in IT, transportation, health care and public safety. And, since 2010, minority hiring in the construction trades and technology has grown much faster than white hiring in the Twin Cities area, according to state labor statistics.
And minority students at colleges such as MCTC, Metro State and Augsburg are approaching half or more of the student body.
To continue growing economically, the region’s workforce needs more immigrants and minorities, according to the Hennepin County Consortium, which includes Wells Fargo, U.S. Bancorp, Fairview Health, Thor Construction, Augsburg College, Johnson Controls, the University of Minnesota and Metro Transit.
Last year, the county hired Mike Christenson to scale up the Hennepin County careers-pathways model. He is an attorney, former head of Minneapolis Community Planning and Economic Development, and spent several years at MCTC working with employers and educators to design skill-building certificate-and-degree programs. The Hennepin plan boils down to this:
• Educators, particularly at two-year colleges, focus more on accelerated programs and training certification that gets people into the workforce at good-wage jobs. Degrees may come later, often with employer help.
• Community organizations such as Summit Academy, PPL, Emerge and Twin Cities Rise train and provide the family support, personal empowerment and other “wraparound” services that some second-chance trainees needs.
• Students who complete certain requirements are guaranteed paid internships that lead to $15-an-hour jobs and benefits.

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