WORTHINGTON — Formerly the Workforce Center, Worthington's new branch of CareerForce is now open on the second floor of the Nobles County Government Center.

The major difference is deeper than just a name change, explained CareerForce Field Operations Regional Manager Reggie Worlds. CareerForce is "a network of public, private and non-profit partners throughout the state." The purpose is to "connect workers with employment and employers with workers," with equity as a primary goal.

There are 50 centers statewide, and services are also available online at careerforcemn.com.

Worlds explained that Minnesota has a lot of strengths, such as economic growth, a diverse economy and a history of innovation. But a number of challenges also face the rising workforce.

For example, Baby Boomers are retiring. Between now and 2035, an average of 65,000 Minnesotans will turn 65 every year. Younger generations need to be prepared to fill those employment gaps.

Also, people of color are the fastest growing demographic in Minnesota, Worlds said.

"We must welcome everyone into our workforce, and that means welcoming everyone into our communities," he said.

As a person of color, Worlds felt nervous about what the culture would be like when he moved to southern Minnesota in 1995. He had lived in 20 states previously and was welcomed into communities at varying degrees.

"I find southern Minnesota home," Worlds reflected. "This is a hardworking community. If you come in and you work hard, the community accepts you."

Although his experience has been positive, the work is not over yet, Worlds added.

"As we start walking into this brave new world we're walking into, where our differences are becoming more pronounced, let us also remember our similarities," he said. "It's going to take all of us to figure out what this brave new world is going to look like."

Worlds said watching his grandchildren play on the playground helps him feel hopeful about the changing and diverse world.

"When I ask my (blonde, blue-eyed) granddaughter who she's playing with, she doesn't say, 'That's my Somali friend,'' Worlds said. "She says, 'That's Habib.' We should all embrace this wholeheartedly."

Worlds said CareerForce works to support demographics that are underrepresented and people who need additional support to enter the workforce. The center helps job seekers find programs that will teach them skills they need in order to find employment. It also helps handicapped individuals evaluate which technological devices could be assets in helping them work independently. All of the services are offered at no cost.

In addition to working with potential employees, CareerForce helps employers hire workers. Maribel Kullman from Prime Pork in Windom is an employer who frequently uses CareerForce as a source for staffing.

"We love to come here," Kullman said. She said that 80% of Prime Pork's employees have been found through CareerForce. CareerForce also helped her brainstorm and come up with the idea of providing transportation for employees who live in outlying areas.

Worlds summed up CareerForce's mission as a unification of all employment resources in a single place.