Bridging the Gap: Youth and Experience collaborate to fill workforce shortage

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HIBBING, MN — There’s a new trend in Northeastern Minnesota — it’s called retirement.

In the next 10 years, there will be nearly 80,000 job openings due, in large part, to retirements in the labor market.

Another major concern? According to the Department of Employment and Economic Development, almost one in every four workers in the region is either within 10 years of or already passed traditional retirement age.

To break it down even further we combined the populations of the communities from Eveleth to Bovey. If every single person living in those communities filled one job opening over the next decade it would only cover half of the anticipated job openings due to retirements.

So what’s the solution?

The Hibbing School District hopes to help the problem with a new program called Career Academies.

“Every time I turn around people are looking for experience, experience, experience,” said Jaden Mankus a senior at Hibbing High School.

Experience is not something high school students usually get before graduating but at Hibbing High School they’re looking to change that.

“I’m really excited to have the career academies because I think it’s going to help bridge the gap of the kids getting into a building trades,” said AJ Abate, an Industrial Technology instructor at the school.

Career Academies is a new initiative in Hibbing aiming to give students experience in their chosen career before receiving their diploma, but it’s not just beneficial to the students.

“We go through times during the year where we can’t get people in the door fast enough to meet the demand that we have,” said Nikki Schram, the Human Resources Director at Detroit Diesel.

Detroit Diesel is a manufacturing business and they’re struggling to find skilled workers, but they aren’t alone.

As baby boomers begin to retire, many companies are having a tough time filling those positions with qualified people.

Mr. Abate said that was part of the inspiration behind Career Academies.

“One, what does our local area need? They need workers. And how can we help fill that need?

The goal is to fill the need with students like Jaden.

“I’ve kind of always been interested, but no one has really given me that step to further my education with it.”

That is until she got into shop class with Mr. Abate.

“We talked about many times how she liked being in the shop area and how she liked working on the cars, and it interested her,” said Abate.

Interest – Abate said that’s a key part of helping students find their career path.

“Giving the kids exposure to the careers, getting them on a track of what their interest is in hopes one, just like Jaden, keep her in the area. Get that interest and have her stay here and work here.”

Schram said for local businesses, like Detroit Diesel, this is a chance to show the future workforce what opportunities are out there.

“If students don’t know that you’re there if they don’t know what types of careers are out there or what types of different jobs there are, they’re not going to be interested, they’re not going to want to go into it.”

With dreams of being a diesel mechanic, Jaden said seeing what it takes to be successful in that field was a game changer.

“Well, with this opportunity I’ll have that experience versus if I were to just graduate high school and go into diesel mechanics just as is, I wouldn’t have nearly as much experience.”

Thanks to the relationship between the school and local businesses Jayden landed an internship this summer with Detroit Diesel.

Career Academies officially kicks off next Fall.

Kristen Vake

Kristen Vake

Anchor, Reporter

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