October 2019
Our mission is to develop and advance the workforce of Southeast Minnesota.
Director's Corner
Jinny Rietmann, Executive Director
Workforce Development, Inc.

"Workforce Development, Inc. was recently awarded a number of employment and training grants to build new and sustain current successful Career Pathways training throughout our region. These projects will increase pipelines into in-demand careers in our region, provide opportunities for individuals in non-traditional careers, opportunities for underserved populations, and ultimately serve the needs of our regional economy."

Retirement of Ed Duda
Workforce Development, Inc.
Rochester, Minnesota

Ed Duda, who served Workforce Development, Inc., job seekers, and the community as a career counselor and trainer since August 5, 1985 provided his Workforce Development family an opportunity to say goodbye with a retirement party on Wednesday, August 28, 2019. Ed showed several of his special talents via the speech he crafted for the occasion titled “We Have Only Just Begun.” Through this unique theme based The Carpenters' song from 1970, which was playing on the radio as his uncle dropped him off at St. Cloud State, Ed related this song to his journey through major events in his life. Covering the trip to college, getting married to his wife, Rita, the road to Workforce Development through to retirement. Now Ed and Rita as the song goes are “Sharing horizons that are new to us; Watching the signs along the way; Talkin’ it over, just the two of us; Workin’ together day to day … We’ll find a place where there’s room to grow (And yes, we’ve just begun).

From using one topic to relay a message on another, to involving the audience, to a love of helping others, Ed used an array of talents which resulted in someone that just can’t be replaced. Ed was gifted signed baseballs as one memory of his contributions to WDI, as we all continue to reap the rewards and recall the memories of the standards Ed set for himself, the dedication he had, and the many examples of his work reflected by his successes. His legacy will undoubtedly continue as we are “Workin’ together day to day, Together, Together. And yes, we’ve just begun.”
                                                                    Submitted by Friends & Colleagues of Ed Duda
Fast Facts: Career Pathways
Charles "Charlie" Vartanian: A Success Story
The story of Charles “Charlie” Vartanian is one of great sacrifice and great reward. Charlie is a Veteran who really never found his occupational direction in life. He needed a compass to point him to the “True North” of a career. He met with Rochester Career Planner Jody Schaber who - through his motivational interviewing - connected him with the Construction Trades Industry. We involved fellow WDI colleagues Bryce Bjork and Susan Boehm through the Pathways, LiUNA, and WDI Construction Laborer Training during the month of May. Charlie was energized through these educational opportunities. After completing the programs successfully he found an apprenticeship with EnviroBate in Abatement and Demolition and is now making $28.00 per hour. Charlie has expressed many encouraging thoughts about our services and is extremely thankful that we were able to connect him with the Construction Laborer Training.

Submitted by: Jody Schaber, Career Planner, WDI
Kimberly Gary: A Success Story
My name is Kimberly Gary. I am a single mother of two wonderful sons, ages 23 and 10. I grew up around men who worked in construction and maintenance and I always enjoyed working around machines, cars, and equipment. I knew then that I would enjoy that type of work, but I took a different career path when I was younger. I graduated from high school and then earned a Medical Assistant Diploma in 2001. I worked as a Medical Assistant for a few years, including in urgent care, where I provided medical assistance to injured construction and factory workers. I learned first-hand the importance of work-place safety, especially in the construction field. I will never forget running to the urgent care door to meet a patient who had cut his
fingers off and placing his fingers that were wrapped
and on ice in a cup for the doctor.
That job ended when I moved to Minnesota from another state for family reasons. I was unable to find a similar job in Minnesota at that time, so I accepted a customer service job at a gas station and worked temporary agency jobs. After a couple of years, I found a more satisfying and stable job in customer service and worked there until I came into CareerForce this summer to print a pay stub and saw a flyer on a table with a picture of a woman wearing a hard hat, which caught my attention. The next thing I noticed on the flyer was “make up to $26 per hour.” I was curious about the opportunity, so I inquired about the Construction Training and met with a Career Planner to learn more. After I learned more about the training, I was excited about the possibility of working in construction and earning a livable wage, so I decided then and there I was going to attend the training no matter what! I completed the required reading and math test and all the enrollment paperwork with my Career Planner in a short amount of time. I commuted from Red Wing to Rochester every day for the four weeks of training, which I would not have been able to afford to do without the gas voucher support from the program. The mentoring I received from all the staff at WDI and from people working in construction during the training helped me successfully complete the training. The Construction Labor, OSHA 30, CPR/FA certificates and other skills I learned during the training have been very helpful, and included topics such as budgeting, interviewing, social media, and so much more.
Both of my sons attended the graduation ceremony and were so proud of me. I was determined to get a job in construction as soon as possible, so I worked hard at making connections in the construction field during the training and started applying for jobs before the training was over. I interviewed with an employer I met during the interviewing portion of the training and accepted a job with Zenith Tech, Inc. right away and have been working as a Construction Laborer Level 1 Apprentice on the new bridge project in Red Wing, which connects MN to WI. I now earn $22.54 per hour plus medical and other benefits. I am looking forward to continuing to learn new skills in construction, including facing my fear of heights head-on. As we learned in the training and I continue to learn on the job every day, safety comes first. Every time I use a circular saw in my current position, I think about those fingers in a cup. Every job I’ve had has helped prepare me for this, my life-changing career. I really enjoy my job and I know I’m in the right career for me. Thank you, Workforce Development, Inc.!

Submitted by Pam Erickson, WDI Career Planner/Red Wing
Closing the farm gate
Struggling farmers take emotional step to forge new career paths
Mary Lou Graf wakes up almost every day knowing this certainty: It will be a long one. Her day could include juggling as many three jobs. Along with that are aches and pains brought on by recent knee replacement surgeries.

Her quest to achieve financial stability feels like it won’t end.

“I'm not saying I want to be a millionaire, I just want to make enough money to pay my bills every month,” Graf said.

Graf, 53, lives on a dairy farm she once operated with her late husband in Hokah, a small community that rests near the Mississippi River in southeastern Minnesota. Her workday typically starts around 6 a.m. and can stretch as late as 8 p.m. In between are a variety of gigs that help her that cover the farm expenses she still has.

Depending on the season, she works at a landscaping business. Now that it’s fall, she has a part-time teaching job at a local school. She even sells Mary Kay cosmetics on the side. She returns home from those jobs to a string of chores to keep the farm going.

Graf married into a farming family. She and her husband had dreams of building their farm into a profitable venture that could pay off all their debt.

Her husband Daryl was killed in a farming accident 11 years ago. The collapse of the dairy market followed his death.

“Milk went from $22 down to $9 there in the early years he was gone. When you cut that in half, less than half, making ends meet, it just wasn't there,” Graf said.

Graf eventually had to sell nearly half of her herd, from 110 cows down to 68, and entertain the thought that most farmers hope to avoid: exploring other career options. Her situation is playing out at other farms in Minnesota, especially at dairy operations where low prices are forcing owners to consider other ways of bringing in income, even if it means a new career.

Manufacturing Month in Red Wing

Red Wing WDI staff have been participating in Manufacturing Month by attending as many public tours as possible, which are arranged by the Red Wing Area Chamber of Commerce and over 15 manufacturers. Activities kicked off when WDI Customer Service Representative, Debbie Rose, attended the Manufacturer Appreciation Luncheon at the historic St. James Hotel on October 14 th . The keynote speaker for this event was Jeremiah Pauley from the Warriors to Work Program, which helps Veterans succeed in the workforce after their service is completed. WDI Career Planner, Mary Eberlein, enjoyed tours at BIC Graphic and ADM. WDI Career Planner, Pam Erickson, participated in tours at Red Wing Software, Prairie Island Nuclear Generating Plant Training Center and Hobgoblin Music/Stoney End Harps. Pam is also planning on attending tours at Red Wing Shoe Company Plant 2 and the new Bicycle Design & Fabrication Lab, Welding Lab, and Maker Space at Minnesota State College Southeast. WDI staff enjoy learning first-hand about the important manufacturers in Red Wing and helping them fulfill their workforce needs by sharing the information with job seekers.

Submitted by Pam Erickson, WDI Career Planner/Red Wing
September Business Highlight
Raising the Bar: Rochester Sand and Gravel
Rochester, Minnesota
Rochester Sand and Gravel (RSG) has advocated for diversity and inclusion in their field for years. Recently, Ed Duda and I met with the President and Hiring Managers at RSG to see for ourselves how the company is exemplifying this mission.
It's apparent that women are valued and play an integral role at Rochester Sand and Gravel. The company has had no problem meeting mandated state and federal contract goals for women and minorities today, though this wasn’t always so. In 1979, when Bob Mahon began his career in the construction industry at Mortenson, seeing people of color in the workplace was unusual, while women on a construction site was virtually unheard of.
A lot has changed since then. Mahon came to RSG in 1987 and utilized word of mouth marketing to recruit employees for his company. Bob shared this about RSG’s hiring practices:
“We’ve got some really good people, a representation of the population," Mahon says. “People who haven’t been exposed are getting a new perspective of their culture," he explains, as he tells of the personal sacrifices one current employee has experienced while sending money home to South America to provide for their aging grandmother. Employees are grateful for a career that pays a living wage, with some even thanking the foreman at the end of their shift for the opportunity to provide for themselves and their families.
Today Rochester Sand and Gravel employs 18% women and 22.5% minorities.

Submitted by: Bryce Bjork - Construction Navigator, WDI
Upcoming Event Dates

SE MN Together: Housing Our Growing Workforce
  • Wednesday, November 6, 2019 // 9am-2:30pm // Armory Square Event Center (Northfield)
  • Thursday, November 14, 2019 // 9am-2:30pm // Five Wynds Event Centre (Spring Valley)
Rochester Job Fair
  • Wednesday, November 6, 2019 // 10am-1pm // RCTC Regional Sports Center (Rochester)
Owatonna Job and Career Fair
  • Wednesday, November 13, 2019 // 11am-2pm // Holiday Inn (Owatonna)
The Construction Trades and You? For Farmers!
  • Thursday, November 14, 2019 // 1-3pm // Giants of the Earth Heritage Center (Spring Grove)
SE Minnesota Employment Trends

Learn more about the
Healthcare Industry
in the upcoming
November 2019 issue!
Workforce Development, Inc. is an Equal Opportunity Employer/Program Provider and a proud partner of the American Job Center Network.
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