September 2019
Our mission is to develop and advance the workforce of Southeast Minnesota.
A Note from Jinny Rietmann
Executive Director
Workforce Development, Inc.
“My goal is to continue to support the excellent work, customer service, and impact that WDI has made over the past 30 plus years,” Rietmann says of her first few months as Executive Director. “Our most valuable asset is our dedicated, passionate, and compassionate staff — we need to continue to utilize their strengths and knowledge and maximize our value through continuous programming that works, while having an ear to the future and the changing needs of our demographics, economy, and workforce.”

Contact Jinny Rietmann at
Regional Workforce Development Strategic Planning Luncheon
Workforce Development, Inc.
Rochester, Minnesota

On August 15, WDI hosted a Regional Workforce Development Strategic Planning Luncheon at the RCTC Heintz Center. This collaborative event served as a kick-off for the year and brought together employees, community members, subcommittee members, Joint Powers Board and Workforce Development Board members, as well as keynote speaker and facilitator Cheryl Glaeser, President/Owner of Achieve TFC. In accompaniment of new WDI Executive Director, Jinny Rietmann, the group spent the day:

  • reviewing accomplishments of the past year
  • developing overarching goals
  • strengthening cohesion among board, staff and stakeholders
  • solidifying the vision and mission of impact attained through the work of WDI
  • strategizing and prioritizing key focus areas and objectives for the next 12 to 14 months

Supported by Cheryl and Jinny's leadership, the event was a huge success. WDI is looking forward to continuing to motivate our team, sparking ideas to action, and achieving great results in the coming year.
Fast Facts: Customer Service
Customer Service Representative positions cross all sectors with the highest pay are in the Public Administration and Financial Sectors.
The median wage for Retail Sales positions is
$11.07 = Southeast MN
$11.60 = Minnesota
Cashier positions are in high demand, with 11,998 expected openings over the next 10 years in Southeast MN.
"John": A Success Story
“John” first came to the Austin WDI office in summer of 2017 for SNAP employment services. During our first meeting he immediately disclosed he had been released from prison a week prior and had “lots of felonies” in his background. He showed clear stress and anxiety over finding a job that would be willing to overlook his past. In addition to the criminal background, John did not have a driver’s license and had nearly $1,000 in fines to pay before he could get it re-instated. Prior to being incarcerated, John had worked a variety of jobs in construction contracting and manual labor. He stated he enjoyed this work, especially the carpentry, and was very experienced with a variety of tools and trades. While his ultimate goal was to get back into contracting work, John was willing to start with any employer willing to give him a chance.
His chance came about 3 weeks later when he was offered and accepted a job with a cafeteria service located at a manufacturing facility. The pay was low and it was not the kind of work he wanted to do, but John knew he had to take the opportunity presented. John admitted he “hated” the job, but he stuck it out for a year. During that time he worked with his Career Planner to polish up his resume and highlight his skills, save money, started a payment plan on his driver’s license fines (allowing him to drive legally for work purposes only), and secure his own housing.
After a year at the cafeteria job he got a job doing siding, earning $5 more an hour than his cafeteria job. We were able to continue to support John through our United Way Universal Customer grant that allowed us to help him purchase work boots. Since then, John has continued to move up. He’s had a few other jobs, each better paying and more suited to his skills and interests. John calls or stops by CareerForce Austin every once in a while to update us on career. Last we heard from John he had just accepted a job doing drywall and mudding, earning $37/hr! He has full driving privileges back and has moved into a nicer apartment.

Submitted by: Clara Johnson, Career Planner, WDI
Meet Tracy Nielsen
Retail/Customer Service, 5th Grant Boutique
Wabasha, Minnesota
A search for a meaningful career may be closer than you realize. Job positions in retail offer personal customer interactions, critical thinking, and rewarding work experiences. Just ask Tracy Nielsen from 5th Grant Boutique.

When asked why she chose a career in retail/customer service, her reply was simple. She explained that the career chose her. She has always been drawn to helping people and to a job that is much more than just a desk and a chair. Tracy explained that this is a job that many can excel at. There are so many different strengths people can bring to a retail career. According to Tracy, “You need to have basic math skills to be able to add and to make change, communication skills, a smiling face and you need to be able to think on your feet.”

Retail careers are also accessible for many people. When asked about the future of retail Tracy stated, “People like to be able to go to the store and see the product. There’s ups and
downs in the trends as with any business. Some businesses have gone to self-checkouts, however when shopping at an actual store it is more personalized and you get to see the clerk’s face rather than talking to someone over the phone.” Talking with Tracy, it is clear that retail has a bigger impact on workers and customers than we may realize. For Tracy it’s never knowing what to expect when she opens the doors in the morning and she hopes that others going into retail will get the opportunity to experience the impact of customer satisfaction or perhaps put a smile on someone’s face in the process.

So what advice does Tracy have for others considering a job in retail? “ Always
put your best foot forward because you never know what the customer is going through. A positive attitude, a good disposition, and being open to anything makes the job worth while. It is also a great opportunity to communicate with customers and co-workers and better your basic math and critical thinking skills.

You can visit Tracy at the Wabasha location or in the Apache Mall. Stop in and say hello in Wabasha during their preview days the last 2 weekends in August. Also look for exciting news on the opening of their two new stores in the Eagan Outlet and in the Southdale Mall.

Submitted by: Melissa Olson, Career Planner, WDI
Changing the story on careers in rural Minnesota
 Percent of students that believe they can find a career they desire in their region by their primary source of career advice

For decades, the narrative speaking to rural high school students has been that to succeed, they must leave. But what if we could do something about that?
As the demand for workers increases in Greater Minnesota, employers and workforce development organizations are increasingly examining why so many young people leave rural regions after high school despite growing local opportunity. In part 1 of our research this year on the workforce shortage, we highlighted the growing number of job vacancies in Greater Minnesota.

Business owners and economic developers are scrambling harder than ever to find workers to avoid cutting production. Jessica Miller, a regional workforce strategy consultant for the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), sees the challenge employers are up against, not only to attract workers into their regions, but also to keep the high school students already there from leaving.

September Business Highlight
Southeast Service Cooperative
Rochester, Minnesota
Southeast Service Cooperative makes it big by being recognized as a 2019 Best Places to Work, making this their 7 th time being recognized. Southeast Service Cooperative’s (SSC) focus is to make its members’ lives easier by pulling resources together. Members are made up of local government, non-profit organizations, and school districts. The agency funds itself through many sources including its insurance pool, membership fees, cooperative purchasing, meeting center rentals, and grants. 

According to program manager Nicole LaChapelle-Strumski, being recognized as a Best Places to Work has impacted their agency greatly. There is higher employee retention and high morale and culture in the working environment likely due to the flexibility SSC offers its employees regarding when, where, and how they work.
Listed below are a few of the great accomplishments achieved by Southeast Service Cooperative:

  • Mobile Science Lab program serving 1,000s of area students
  • Efforts to bring wellness into member organizations via mini grants and educational opportunities
  • Student academics via different programming such as Young Author’s Conference and Knowledge Bowl

Currently SSC is working on its FutureFoward project which they recently received a grant for from the Otto Bremer Trust. This project will entail job shadowing opportunities for high school students.

Submitted by: Emily Yang, Career Planner - Global Career Development Facilitator, WDI
Upcoming Event Dates

October 3: Workforce Development Board and Taskforce Meetings, Workforce Development, Inc., Rochester

October 3: MaxAbility Career Connection, Apache Hotel and Event Center, Rochester.
SE Minnesota Employment Trends

Learn more about  the
Trade Industry
in the upcoming
September/October 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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