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Experts collaborate to fill welding skills gap

EVELETH, MN — Skilled welders needed. That was the resounding message from regional businesses Wednesday as they gathered at Mesabi Range College’s Eveleth Campus.

“Our problem is that we need welders today, not two years from now,” said Kelly Hertling, Human Resources Supervisor at L&M Radiator.

And L&M isn’t alone.

That’s why nearly 60 people came together at Mesabi Range College to brainstorm how to fill a much-needed skill in the region’s workforce.

“The persistent issue of ‘we can’t find enough skilled employees.’ We continue to hear that,” said Roy Smith, Director of Talent Development for both the IRRRB and Northeast Higher Education District.

Hertling said this is an issue L&M has been facing for a while.

“We alone need over 23 people, that’s a lot of people and without those 23 people we’re not going to be able to get our product out the door and on time.”

This decline in interest didn’t happen overnight.

Smith has been working on education and workforce development for more than a decade and said it’s been a progression over generations.

In an effort to try and stop it business, education, and workforce experts are collaborating and connecting their shops to the classrooms.

“The key to finding good employees is to engage with them early,” said Smith. “That means as early as high school.”

Experts agree programs like Applied Learning Institute, Career Academies, and others, make building those relationships easier.

“By providing opportunities for businesses to come into the classroom or opening up their businesses to students and teachers to come in there,” said Smith. “Those are the sorts of things we’ve seen change across the region as well. Just companies understanding that they play an important role in the education of these children.”

At the welding forum, business leaders made it clear – the jobs are here and they want to fill them.

“I think the opportunity is bigger than we give it credit for,” said Hertling. “There are jobs here and yes, you can stick and stay and you can have a great job where you grew up.”

The meeting was hosted by the IRRRB and the Northeast Higher Education District. They plan on continuing this conversation by bringing people from different sectors together in the future.

Kristen Vake

Anchor, Reporter

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