Updated: February 11, 2021 05:29 PM
Created: February 11, 2021 03:11 PM
(ABC 6 News) - One year ago, Tracy Bjerke was heading into her seventh year as a dietician for Hy-Vee in Owatonna.
"It was a job I really enjoyed for the seven years that I was in there. It was kind of something where I came out of my internship and I was like I want to be a Hy-Vee dietician," Bjerke said.
Like many others, her plans changed as COVID-19 took over. Hy-Vee laid off most of its dieticians in late February, but Bjerke saw this as an opportunity to start her own nutrition and wellness business.
"I wasn't sure what the first steps would be, but a friend of mine actually told me about the Workforce Development and the programs they might have for me," Bjerke said.
Workforce Development Incorporated (WDI) is a non-profit that serves ten counties in Southeast Minnesota as a part of CareerForce.
"Our goal is to make connections between career seekers and employers and making sure that we're helping career seekers gain the skills that they need," Jinny Rietmann, executive director of WDI, said.
WDI provides resources like career matching, skills assessments and skills training to help people find the right job for them.
Prior to the COVID pandemic, Southeast Minnesota had already been facing a workforce shortage, and the pandemic only made things worse.
Parents stayed home to help with virtual learning and seniors retired for safety.
"We're also hearing from individuals anecdotally, you know, 'I got laid off or I had to stay home with my kids for a few months, and then after a few months, we figured out this can work and I don't know that I'm going to go back into the workforce,'" Rietmann said.
This means there is a lot of empty space in the job market right now, but for Tracy, she was able to create her own space with WDI's help.
"If there's another entrepreneur out there who has gotten laid off and wants to really pursue their own business, I think its a fabulous resource and a great opportunity," Bjerke said.
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