Minnesota’s first Employer Resource Network® brings innovative approach to workforce development
HUTCHINSON, Minn. — Five regional employers in Kandiyohi County, Meeker County, Lower Sioux Indian Community and Redwood County have partnered with Southwest Initiative Foundation to launch Minnesota’s first Employer Resource Network® (ERN), an innovative approach to workforce development.
Southwest Minnesota is experiencing a workforce shortage. Unemployment rates are between 3 and 4 percent for the areas this program serves, and the challenges with recruiting and retaining employees is impacting area businesses as they compete in a global economy. At the same time, employees face barriers to finding career success and providing for themselves and their families. ERNs are a solution to both: they assist companies in supporting working families while driving business growth.
Southwest Initiative Foundation is using a model developed in Michigan in 2007, the Employer Resource Network® USA. This model combines job retention services, work supports, education and training. It assists employees in navigating work and personal situations and employers in developing and retaining talent. ERNs also work with community service providers like social service agencies, workforce development groups, chambers of commerce, economic development groups and community and technical colleges or other training institutions.
Employer Resource Network® member companies pay for access to an on-site network Success Coach who works directly with employees as a coach, advocate and connector. Nationwide, member companies average a 500 percent return on their investment based on job turnover rates, the cost of skill building and training and increased productivity.
Members include Bethesda – with locations in Willmar, Olivia and New London; Minnesota Rubber & Plastics and Towmaster Trailers and Truck Equipment located in Litchfield; Jackpot Junction Casino & Hotel, part of the Lower Sioux Indian Community; and Jonti-Craft in Wabasso.
Jean Spaulding of Spicer has been hired by Southwest Initiative Foundation as the Employer Resource Network® Success Coach. She has an extensive background in economic development, business development and human resources with a master certification in health and life coaching. Her career has followed her passion for facilitating growth in organizations, from small businesses to local governments, and her experience and expertise make her an ideal fit for this unique position.
“I’m so excited to be able to work with businesses through this new and innovative partnership. I feel anyone can benefit from having a coach to help make sense of whatever is going on or just bounce ideas off when needed. When a person comes across a new situation, you don’t always know where to turn and having an available resource – one text away – can make a big difference,” Spaulding said. “I feel that everything I’ve done throughout my career has brought me to this place, and I’m passionate about being part of the small hinge that can help swing a big door in someone’s life.”
Spaulding will spend time onsite with member companies and meet with employees to identify issues they’re facing, which may include accessing child care; dealing with financial pressures; budgeting, banking or building a credit score; finding affordable housing options; transportation and car repairs; applying for other programs; locating counseling; managing conflicts; and training, education or career advancement. Together, the coach and employees set goals, access resources and explore supports that will help them excel at work and home.
“This new network matches both short- and long-term economic development strategies for our communities, businesses, families and kids from cradle to career,” said Diana Anderson, Southwest Initiative Foundation President/CEO. “The Employer Resource Network® model is a perfect fit with our foundation’s Grow Our Own initiative to ensure that all southwest Minnesota kids can access the opportunities they need to reach their full potential.”
Research from The Saguaro Seminar: Civic Engagement in America at Harvard Kennedy School shows that one of the things kids need to succeed is stable families and parenting. Through ERNs, workers gain economic self-sufficiency and build wealth for themselves and their families. They also can access the supports they need to provide safe, nurturing environments for the kids in their lives. Career onramps are another key to kids’ successful life outcomes. ERNs help southwest Minnesota employers develop and retain talent, maintaining strong regional businesses as young people prepare for and enter the workforce.
About Southwest Initiative Foundation
Southwest Initiative Foundation (SWIF) is a nonprofit community foundation connecting people, investing in ideas and building communities to create a southwest Minnesota where all people thrive. Since its founding in 1986, SWIF has distributed more than $97.8 million through its grantmaking and business finance programs.