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Experts Discuss Rochester's Changing Workforce

January 11, 2019 05:48 PM

(ABC 6 News) -- Leaders in business gathered in Rochester Friday for the Southeast Minnesota State of the Workforce Forum.

While business opportunities continue to grow in Rochester, there may not be a workforce able to meet that demand.

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"Like many states, Minnesota has an aging workforce. We have slow population growth. One of the concerns going into the future is who will take the jobs? What kind of workers will we have? Who will be the new residents in our cities and towns across the state?" said Ryan Allen, associate professor at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs.   

He said the aging workforce could contribute to severe labor shortages that would slow economic growth. He believes immigration could be an answer.

"One of the things immigration can do is bring in people to our state who are ready and eager to work. They can fill the jobs that are available in our state. They can pay taxes, they can do all the things that will lead to a more robust economy,” he said.
 
With the growth of business in Rochester, Randy Johnson, executive director of Workforce Development Incorporated, said a strong workforce is needed. 

"The demographics aren't really on our side in terms of a new influx of people from our immediate community here for the next number of years," said Johnson.
 
In 2015, more than 300,000 immigrants made up 10 percent of Minnesota’s labor force and 60,000 immigrants worked in the healthcare and social assistance industry, according to the American Immigration Council. 

Allen hopes this forum will spark a conversation about the future workforce in this community.

"Going all the way from the Mayo Clinic and DMC, to all the businesses that are affiliated with that, there is a large swath of a labor force that is needed from the very high skilled to the low skilled. It's undoubtedly going to affect Rochester,” he said.

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Talia Milavetz

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