WORTHINGTON — Worthington Independent School District 518, in partnership with the SW MN Private Industry Council Youth and Young Adult Programs and the Worthington Area Chamber of Commerce, hosted the fifth local Career Fair on Feb. 14 for their students in grades 11-12 from the high school and 9-12 grades from the Learning Center.

With a projected population decline in the rural region and a current regional unemployment rate of 2.1% — the lowest rate in decades — employers in the region are challenged to recruit and hire employees with the skills needed for even entry-level employment. Additionally, the region’s Jobseekers per Vacancy rate is 0.5 (DEED Data Tools).

As students and their parents look forward to the world of work, they face the challenge of not knowing what local careers and pathways exist and acquiring the education and skills needed for that job. There are many factors that students consider when deciding on their educational or career paths, but one influencer stands out: parents (Tapping Homegrown Talent, Luke Greiner, 2018). According to Greiner, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development Regional Labor Market Analyst for Southwest Minnesota, 75% of students surveyed in southwest Minnesota indicated they would stay in their area if they had an acceptable job prospect. Sharing upfront the wage potential, education requirements and in-house training employers provide — or college assistance/scholarship assistance companies offer and how to get connected to those opportunities through the local careers — is powerful for students and their families today.

"The labor market is much different than it was so many years ago and awareness and exposure for our youths and their parents of future real, local career and training options is critical in today’s economy," states a SW MN Private Industry Council press release. "Rural Minnesota has incredible career and educational opportunities. Unfortunately, many students and adults are not aware of them.

"If we are to help our future workforce develop the skills and leadership which will allow our economy to thrive, we must heighten awareness about the great career pathways, employment and educational opportunities that exist in our region."

Adds Eriann Faris, program manager for the PIC: "It is critical to engage our future workforce with local employers and community mentors to inform our young people of the regional jobs in demand, and career pathway opportunities within local industry while also providing guidance and understanding to our students on proper career attainment dynamics, such as interviewing skills, soft skills and career planning focuses.”

Participating in the Career Fair were: AGCO (Round Lake), Avalon Beauty Academy (Worthington), Bedford Industries (Worthington), CFANS Admissions (St. Paul), Christensen Farms (throughout Southwest Minnesota), Ecumen (Worthington), Energy Center of Excellence (Minnesota West), Family Dentistry (Worthington), First State Bank Southwest (southwest Minnesota), Fulda Area Credit Union (Fulda), Iowa Lakes Community College (Iowa Great Lakes Region), Jaycox Implement (Worthington), JBS USA, LLC (Worthington), Johnson Builders & Realty Inc. (Worthington), Lakeview Electric (Southwest Minnesota), Maple Lawn Senior Care (Fulda), Midwestern Mechanical (Sioux Falls, South Dakota), Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry (St. Paul), Minnesota Department of Transportation (St. Paul), Minnesota National Guard, New Vision (Brewster), Nobles County Community Services, Prairie Rehabilitation (Worthington), Project Build MN, Ridgewater Community College (Willmar), Sanford Health (Worthington), South Dakota State University Admissions and Dairy Science Program (Brookings, S.D.), Smith Trucking Inc. (Worthington), South Shore Care Center/ Crossroads (Worthington), Southwest Minnesota State University (Marshall), The Globe (Worthington), Worthington Area YMCA and Minnesota West Community and Technical College Administrative Assistant Program (Worthington), Automotive Technology Program (Jackson), Computer Networking Program (Jackson), Cosmetology Program (Jackson and Pipestone), CTC Law Enforcement Program (Worthington), Health Information Technology Program (Pipestone), Powerline Program (Jackson), and Power Sports Technology Program (Jackson).

Anyone interested in participating in next year's Career Fair should contact Andre Adame at aadame@swmnpic.org or (507) 760-1600. The event is scheduled for Feb. 12, 2021.