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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

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