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Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Millennials and Minnesota's Economy

On November 24, I had the chance to be in the room for Senator Amy Klobuchar's Summit exploring Millennials and the changing economy in Minnesota. Given that Minnesota projects a 100,000 worker shortfall within the next 5 years, the Senator convened the meeting to understand what Minnesota can do to appeal to the demographic that now comprises the largest percentage of the workforce - Millennials.

Opening remarks were provided by Sen. Klobuchar detailing the ways that federal law makers are working to improve the situation of Millennials in the economy. Two items she mentioned specifically were policies regarding myRA and increasing benefits for Family Leave. myRA is an idea that an individual's retirement account will move with them as they transition jobs rather than starting fresh with each new employment opportunity. Increasing benefits for family leave is partially in response to the trend that many Millennials are waiting to start families due to uncertain finances and small time away post delivery.

The keynote address was provided by Jen Mishory, Executive Director of Young Invincibles. Her address included some context and data about Millennials entering and participating in the workforce. For instance, Millennials in Minnesota that graduate with a four year degree on average have over $30,000 in student debt. She also advocated for policy to relieve student debt (e.g. - student loan refinancing), increased workplace benefits (especially around family leave), and adjustments to health care to increase access and coverage for uninsured young people.

A panel comprised of Merrill Irving, Jr. (President, Hennepin County Technical College), Diane Tran (Founder, Minnesota Rising), and Matt Lewis (Strategy Manager, Make It. MSP initiative) shared some of their thoughts regarding the situation facing Minnesota, including:
  • Many of the shortages are in technical industries and trades. Hennepin County Technical College has a 94% placement rate for graduates and still isn't able to fill demand for workers - even for companies that are willing to reimburse tuition for students who commit to working for them afterward. So where is the breakdown?
  • In Greater Minnesota, Millennials who participated in focus groups on the topic expressed interest in workplaces that offer front-loaded benefits, opportunities to receive mentorship or apprenticeship, and flexible working schedules.
  • Millennials generally eschew categorization and instead identify with causes. How are communities, industries, and companies making it known what kinds of impacts they seek and create?
Break out discussions among attendees were beginning (including folks from multiple sectors including academic, for profit, and non profit). The three questions groups were asked to address were:

  1. How can workplace policies/benefits better fit the needs of millennial employees?
  2. How can our diverse Minnesota industries who are facing workforce shortages (from high tech to manufacturing) better recruit and retain millennial employees?
  3. How s student debt impacting the major life decisions of Millennials?

How would your community businesses and industries respond to these questions? How are you having success with Millennials in your community?

Photo from Senator Klobuchar's Photo Gallery

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Sharing gratitude

We at Extension show our gratitude to all the people working to make Minnesota communities great. Thanks for who you are and what you do!

Image adapted from Flickr user Shannonkringen in accordance with the Creative Commons License

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Learn - Four Actions for Citizen Engagement

Civic engagement and participatory process can take many different shapes. All involve citizens at some level. Matt Hall has developed a tool that could be helpful for evaluating engagement efforts.

Visit the image and explanation to learn about four easy questions you can ask to define and measure citizen engagement efforts.

Photo credit flickr user nasa_goddard

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Give to the Max Day - Support community leadership!

Give to the Max Day, Minnesota's annual giving extravaganza, is November 12. You can support Extension Leadership Programs by visiting the University's giving portal at and choosing to "Give Now." By using the University's site, know that 100% of your gift will go to support the program of your choice  - there are no administrative fees!

Extension Leadership Funds include the Patricia and Francis Buschette Leadership Fund (statewide support) and the Vijay Sethi Leadership Fund (northwest Minnesota support).

If you have questions about Give to the Max, or about giving any time through the year, contact Jane Johnson, Extension development director.

To learn more about how gifts to Extension research and education can make a difference in Minnesota, visit the Donate to Extension website.


Thursday, October 29, 2015

Opportunity - Grants for rural and greater Minnesota

The Minnesota Council of Nonprofits recently highlighted a number of grants available through their Grants Alert email (if you would like to receive it, you can sign up for it here).

Two grants specifically targeted rural areas and small towns across Minnesota. They include:

Monday, October 26, 2015

Event Recap - Southwest and Southease Minnesota Water Quality Summit on Civic Engagement

On October 15, 39 water quality professionals from across Southeast and Southwest Minnesota gathered together in Mankato to go deeper into their civic engagement practice. Examining civic engagement as defined in Extension's model, the two facilitators for the day provided examples of participatory practices that have worked to engage the public in improving water quality.

Dr. Ryan Atwell, currently with the National Park Service at Yellowstone as their Social Science Coordinator, shared his experience in using social science and civic engagement techniques to change land practices to improve water quality. His research highlights the layers of social complexity that layer on top of the ecological complexity, necessitating an engaged approach. He advocated for a style of work that allows community members to build a dream together rather than being forced to adopt a pre-determined plan.  Dr. Atwell posed the question that if research suggests adoption of new practices is based primarily on subjective values and social norms diffused through interpersonal networks, what does that mean for the work of water quality specialists?

Extension educator Tobias Spanier reinforced those lessons with an overview of different levels of participation, referencing the Spectrum created by the International Association of Public Participation. He led participants through an activity to depict their engagement with people in their watershed and place it on the spectrum. He wrapped his time by providing participants with a Strategic Doing tool for use with community so that the community can collectively own the work that needs to be done to improve water quality.

At the end of the day, participants left the event with a vision for what civic engagement might look like in their watersheds. 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Learn - Tips for Effective Online Participantion

Going Viral presentation - 7 minute highlight reel from IAP2 2015 from MetroQuest on Vimeo.

When embedding civic engagement into your approach to work, it is important that the public can participate through a number of avenues. Dave Biggs here lays out eight practices that have led to successful participation. The video is only seven minutes long so check it out!
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