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Roundtable on Youth Jobs and Development Highlights Importance of Engaging Young People in Employment Opportunities

Getting young people working is good for their careers and for the economy


March 25, 2021

St. Paul – Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) Commissioner Steve Grove and Deputy Commissioner Hamse Warfa held a virtual roundtable on Friday, March 19 focused on the impact of the pandemic on youth jobs. The discussion was attended by employers across the state and is part of a push to place more young people into great jobs this coming summer.

The roundtable is part of a broader series of discussions the agency is hosting called “The Next Minnesota Economy,” focusing on inclusive economic growth, reskilling our labor market and creating good jobs.

“We want to help employers enable a surge in hiring more young people this summer,” said DEED Commissioner Steve Grove. “It’s not just important for their careers, it’s important for our economy overall to get young people working.”

“Participation from the business community, community providers and government is what it will take to provide young people with the opportunities they deserve,” said DEED Deputy Commissioner for Workforce Development Hamse Warfa. “As we think of inclusive economic recovery, it’s important that we center around equity, so that communities hit hardest are on the front end of receiving services.”

Young Minnesotans have been particularly hard hit by pandemic-related job losses. In January 2021, the unemployment rate for Minnesota teens (16-19-year-olds) was 13.8% as compared to 7.6% in January 2020. There was a large decline in the number of teenagers employed in Minnesota, from 132,900 in January 2020 to 117,800 in January 2021. In addition, the total number of teenagers in the labor force declined, from 143,800 available workers in January 2020 to 136,700 workers in January 2021, the smallest teen labor force since 2016.

Friday’s discussion built on earlier youth roundtables, which surfaced ways to maximize the skills that young Minnesotans bring to the table, including leveraging their unique perspectives on everything from social media strategy to membership on company boards. The previous discussion also raised the importance of finding ways to continue to engage youth during and even beyond their summer job or internship.

Youth job programs are an important part of youth employment in Minnesota, and many of these programs are provided by DEED grantees throughout Minnesota. DEED has set a goal with partners of placing 6,000 youth in jobs or internships through these youth programs this upcoming summer.

Roundtable participants offered a variety of thoughts on engaging young people in summer jobs or internships as we come out of the pandemic. A youth employment program participant also offered her perspective on how her supervisor has helped her navigate her first job and the benefits of employment.

“It was a big deal for me to get my very first job,” said Jenave Mendoza, a youth participant enrolled in a Youth At Work program through the Minnesota Valley Action Council. Her supervisor, Sharla Allison, helps her figure out everything from filling out timecards to planning for next steps in her employment. “It’s really cool to have somewhere to go after school and to go to work and to do something productive.”

“In 2021, we have a really committed and dedicated focus toward getting to pre-COVID numbers in terms of onboarding the students in a number of departments,” said Eric Rasmusson, Senior Manager of Talent Acquisition at Marvin. “We’re able to expose youth and students to so many areas, not only manufacturing but also HR and engineering. We really like to diversify exposure and hopefully they can build that into their career and hopefully take that career and bring it back to Marvin.”

“We need to make sure that everyone has equitable access to opportunities,” said Jessica Chisholm, Assistant Vice President of Campus Recruiting, U.S. Bank. “It comes from the top down...that leadership around ‘why is it so important’ and that’s what drives our engagement with the community from an equity standpoint.“

You can see a recording of the March 19 Youth Jobs Roundtable on DEED’s Facebook page.

DEED is the state's principal economic development agency, promoting business recruitment, expansion and retention, workforce development, international trade and community development. For more details about the agency and its services, visit the DEED website or follow us on Twitter.


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