Episode 25: Rural-urban workforce opportunities
(Air date: March 26, 2020)
One of Minnesota's greatest economic assets is its diverse economic base. Having jobs distributed across a wide range of industries has helped the state's economy grow during challenging times. Maintaining this diverse economy requires Minnesota’s businesses to recruit workers in both rural and urban areas.
Kelly Asche, research associate with the Center for Rural Policy Development joins us to discuss the current workforce challenges and opportunities that exist across the state.
“You have things that are very rural and things that are very urban in Minnesota, but most of Minnesota exists somewhere in between.”
— Kelly Asche
- Christy Kallevig, Extension educator
University of Minnesota Extension, Center for Community Vitality
- Kelly Asche, research associate
Center for Rural Policy Development
- Use the Community Vitality page as your go-to resource for help in your community work.
- Learn about the research on workforce done by the Center for Rural Policy Development.
- Hear more about Minnesota's diverse economy in our Minnesota's economy 101 podcast.
Read this episode's conversation below.
Note: Our Vital Connections On Air episodes are audio-based interviews. Written transcripts are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before referencing content in print.
Christy Kallevig: Hello, my name is Christie Kallevig, host of Vital Connections On Air. Over the next few months, we will be using our episodes to explore rural-urban issues. Some episodes we'll discuss areas that we differ, but more will show ways that we are similar, and all of the episodes have been created with the hope of starting a larger conversation. We hope that you enjoy them.
Christy Kallevig: Welcome to Vital Connections On Air, a podcast brought to you by the University of Minnesota Extension Center for Community Vitality that explores the trends and topics important to communities and leaders throughout Minnesota. My name is Christy Kallevig and I am an Extension educator with the Center for Community Vitality, and today I am joined by Kelly Asche, research associate with the Center for Rural Policy Development. Welcome to the podcast, Kelly.
Kelly Asche: Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.
Christy Kallevig: Well, I'm really happy to have you join us today as we continue talking about rural-urban issues and how they are connected and similar yet different and unique. And today you and I are going to chat a little bit about workforce. Before we dive into that, I guess let's back up a little bit and tell me a little bit about your role as a research associate for the Center for Rural Policy Development and really, what the center does.
Kelly Asche: Yes. So the Center for Rural Policy and Development was actually created by the state legislature here in Minnesota, probably I think it was in the late nineties. At the time, legislators were talking about policies during legislative session and when they're talking about these policies, they would have committee hearings and folks come in and other organizations come in to talk about the impacts these policies might have on their regions. And they at the time heard a lot of metropolitan-based organizations that had a lot of data on hand to talk about the impacts of policies and they were making comments. Legislators would make comments that they would hear only anecdotes from their rural areas and just couldn't find as much data and didn't have maybe the organizations to present that data, specifically through a rural lens as well as metropolitan organizations did. So they created the Center for Rural Policy and Development to kind of help fill that gap.
And our work really is around gathering information and conducting research on topics and issues related to rural Minnesota and by rural, you know, that's that kind of a vague word that a lot of people throw around with no real true meaning. And the Center for Rural Policy honestly isn't that much different. We consider it to be pretty broad. Really, we just focus on anything outside of the seven-county metro and we try to do a really interesting job whenever talking about our research or presenting information to try to provide that spectrum of urban and rural. You know, you have things that are very rural and you have things that are very urban in Minnesota, but most of Minnesota exists somewhere in between. So we try to make that clear whenever we're doing our research, presenting information to try and give a full view of the different ways in which a policy or an issue is impacting, let's say Hancock, Minnesota, a town of 800 versus Alexandria, Minnesota, a town of 15,000, because there are differences there too. And there's a lot of nuance.
Christy Kallevig: How do you get the ideas for the research that you do and what are the current topics that you're looking at?
Kelly Asche: So yeah, we send out a thought leader survey every year [to] a list of 15 to 20 different issues we as staff members have heard about or are concerned about. And then the folks rank that. And that survey goes to every state legislator in Minnesota and also to every Minnesota newspaper publisher and editor across Minnesota. Because those guys really have the eyes and ears on the ground in rural areas and in other various leaders across Minnesota. And they rank the issues as you know: Is it more important than urgent or is it just important but not urgent [or] is it neither? And then we kind of figure out what are the top four to six topics. And that's what we work on every year. Right now we're taking a look at the ag economy. You know, that's a big topic of discussion and what kind of impact that's having on a more local, rural economy level.
I am currently deep into healthcare access issues for rural areas. And then we're also taking a look at the balancing of childcare regulations in business needs. We're doing a survey out to county administrators looking at what are the impacts of addiction. You've probably read some things, you know, the opioid epidemic obviously, but also meth is making a really strong comeback, particularly in northern Minnesota. So we're taking a look at how counties are handling that. One of the interesting things I'm going to be doing right after healthcare is looking at the differences in wages and cost of living across Minnesota. You know, you always hear these things about people saying, “Well, yeah, you get paid less than rural areas, but it costs less to live there.” We're going to have to kind of dig in to see if that's true or not, kind of bust through some of that language and kind of see what the truth is there. So, yeah, that’s what’s on tap.
Christy Kallevig: Absolutely. So the work that you did around workforce this year and you've released a report that shares your findings and we'll make sure that we link that here on our podcast page. But that must have been one of those topics that kind of rose to the top in your 2019 survey.
Kelly Asche: Yeah, that's exactly right. So this had a lot to do with job vacancies [which] was just turning out to be a pretty big deal throughout the legislature. Legislators from rural areas were coming to us and being like, “Look, we're hearing a lot from our constituents and business owners that they have a lot of jobs open. Can you just look at the data and tell us like, is this a new thing? Are vacancies growing? Is it across the state or certain areas, particular industries, types of positions? Are wages increasing? And they had all these questions about it and the data existed, but nobody kind of put it through a rural lens to kind of be like, “Okay, this is how job vacancies might be different historically and now compared to metropolitan areas.” And so when we started looking into this data and I started interviewing folks on the ground in the workforce development organizations, it became pretty clear to me that this was a pretty significant issue.
So actually, we didn't release just one report. We released four reports on job vacancies. We'll kind of dig into those. But, you know, the first part really kind of started with, okay, what do the numbers look like? And let me just highlight kind of a brief couple things when we look at job vacancies. I think maybe not anymore, but when we first started looking into this, a lot of conversation, a lot of articles and things were focused on the explosive job growth in the Twin Cities. You know, kind of a metropolitan area, but you didn't hear a whole lot about rural areas. Even though everybody knew it existed, there wasn't a lot of focus on it. So when we dug into the numbers, we did a couple things. One just looking at what is the average number of job vacancies annually in the different planning regions across the state?
So when we look at just how much job vacancies have increased, then we have data. I should say DEED, twice a year they survey businesses across the state to put numbers together to figure out how many job vacancies there are. And they did this starting in 2005. And so when we go back to then and we compare how many average job vacancies there were in 2018 (because that's the latest data compared to 2005) across the state. Regions have about 150% more job vacancies today than they did in 2005, which is quite a few years before the Great Recession. So there were a lot of job vacancies back in 2005 as well. That just kind of gives you the extent of that growth. But what's even more interesting is you want to know about job vacancy, the pressure to fill these job vacancies.
How hard is it to fill these? And for that, we actually use something called the vacancy rate, which actually uses those average number of job vacancies as a percentage of the total jobs filled in that region. So obviously the higher the percentage of the job vacancies that make up of the jobs that are filled, the more pressure there is to fill those. And when we actually break down those numbers, every region outside of the metropolitan counties is above the metropolitan counties as far as vacancy rate, meaning that to job vacancies, the pressure to fill them is actually highest in Greater Minnesota. And I refer to Greater Minnesota as areas outside of the seven-county metro. Their highest they are compared to the seven-county metro, which was a little bit even surprising to me. I knew they were high, but I didn't realize they were that high.
Christy Kallevig: When you did the research, did you see any strategies that folks are using to try and fill the vacancies that were either successful or pretty innovative in your eyes?
Kelly Asche: Yeah, so there's some really interesting things happening across the state and this was really in my mind. So the other three parts of our research really focused on new strategies and they were a lot of fun. I [interviewed] just a ton of people that in the workforce development organizations and educational institutions trying to get a handle on where do these strategies, because we wanted to try and identify what are some of the policy barriers that folks are having in implementing these strategies to make them successful. So when we think about strategies to fill this gap of job vacancies and getting more people, it really falls into two pools. So one is recruiting and retaining labor force. You want to recruit new people into your region and you want to retain the folks you have, which might be your high school students. And then the second piece is also engaging the population. So engaging your own constituents or your own people that maybe aren't participating in the labor force at high rates.
Christy Kallevig: What were some of the issues that you discovered were being discussed around these two different pots? Whether it be recruitment and retention or utilization of current constituents?
Kelly Asche: You know, when I look at this people recruitment, you know I think people understood, you know, legislators understood what I was talking about but they didn't realize the extent to how many folks are involved in doing this, how many organizations and also some of the barriers in and barriers and purpose of what these initiatives are doing. So you know, I really had to lay out with the people recruitment stuff that you know, this is based on, the University of Minnesota Extension. Ben Winchester, you know, his whole Brain Gain, the in-migration of 30-49 year-olds coming into our regions. And he was kind of one that spearheaded this whole conversation of what if we actually took advantage of this trend of this 30-49 year-olds that in-migrate into our rural counties? Take advantage of that and try to expand on it and grow that trend instead of worrying so much about the people we’re losing.
And so these initiatives take advantage of that. And you know, when you look at why migrating to rural areas, there were four things that popped up. Affordable housing, small class sizes, quality of life; and then jobs didn't come particularly high when migrating to rural areas, except for immigrant and refugee populations. When I did my interviews out in rural areas, organizations that were dedicated towards recruiting, retaining and helping immigrant refugee populations to try and get a handle on moving into a region and feeling comfortable. You know, they said their number one reasons for moving there was jobs for the most part.
Christy Kallevig: Sure. One thing that I thought was really interesting in the research reports that you did was that you talk about being at the end of the slack of our workforce because our labor market is just really tight right now. And you use that as a way to discuss the large groups of individuals or constituents, as you said, that have a lot of skills but maybe haven't been looked to in the past for work. Can you talk a little bit more about that?
Kelly Asche: Yeah, so you know, one thing that's interesting is a lot of folks talk about our low unemployment rate. You know, our unemployment rates between two and four percent depending upon what county you're in right now. So when we talk about reaching the end of the slack in the workforce, it's really kind of that we look at unemployment. So then you got to look at [that] unemployment only takes a percentage of folks that are participating in the labor force. So there's a whole chunk of people, but it's not a huge chunk of people. But there's a percentage of folks that aren't participating at all, so aren't included in that, in those unemployment numbers. And a lot of businesses and workforce development organizations are looking at these folks. And this is, you know, the types of folks that we're talking about or maybe people with disabilities, people with criminal background histories, particularly ex-felons. Immigrant refugee populations actually have some high barriers to employment.
And then what I kind of call folks with just life circumstances; this could be poverty, single mothers, folks that just, you know, for whatever the reason, they have circumstances in their life that makes it a little bit harder for them to apply for a job or to show up to work on time and things like that and follow any sort of rules that might be in place. And so when we talk about barriers, one thing I have found really important to say is that sometimes this narrative really tries to blame people for not participating in the labor force, but we need to actually recognize that there are business-side and population-side barriers. And by business-side, I mean businesses concerned about hiring these folks. And so it could be concern over cost.
If you're hiring somebody with disabilities, what kind of capital investments do I need to make in my facilities to make everything assessable? Fear of legal liability for hiring some of these people that you have to make certain arrangements so that they can be efficient and productive. And if you don't do that, are they going to get sued? And they're not, but businesses are concerned about this. Lack of awareness. So if you're hiring somebody that say, is hard of hearing, or has hearing difficulties that there are services available from the state to help make amends and figure that how that person can work in your company. But you know, businesses don't know about that. So they're afraid to even approach a person like that to hire. Also cultural preparedness. We heard this a lot when trying to hire immigrant refugee populations. You know, businesses, HR departments [are] scared that maybe their current employees aren't ready for such a sudden shift in culture.
You know, do they maybe have employees that aren't going to be accepting of new cultures coming in? Do they have managers that speak Spanish? Do they have people there or the equipment necessary that can communicate safety warnings and things like that in different languages? Also, there's HR folks and business owners that have negative perceptions. So a lot of folks, if you talk to a business, they're going to say, “Oh, ex-felon means bad worker.” Right? And that's not the case, but that's the barrier that exists for these people. And then on the population side, there's everything from health care issues to transportation, to having childcare, to just flat out poverty. Not being able to just get in participating. And so, it was interesting hearing about all of this and hearing barriers being identified and the amount of work that's going in to engage in these populations by or workforce development organizations and businesses.
You know, businesses deserve some credit in Minnesota [for] really [being] cutting edge and engaging these folks. One of the things I keep telling legislators is workforce development has changed. So it's no longer just about job training. You know, if there's a mass layoff, usually workforce development organizations go out, assess that, that labor pool that's getting laid off, figure out what their skills are and try and connect them with new jobs. Well now the whole thing is not just about job training and assessment when you're dealing with folks with this many barriers, you're talking about educating businesses, you're talking about connecting up with health services, human services, you're dealing with social workers. You might be helping businesses understand that they're going to be dealing with a parole officer, and other sorts of meetings and might have to go to and might not be able to make work for certain hours. You're talking about housing and housing stability and you're talking about transportation. So our workforce development organizations or businesses are having to reach out to a much broader network to engage these populations than I think they're used to. And so that's been really interesting. And it also pulls in these whole lot of questions about funding and policy and things like that. So yeah, that was a really interesting piece.
Christy Kallevig: And those population or community barriers are often the hardest, especially for those who have a past involvement with the criminal justice system.
Kelly Asche: Yeah. And that, that was probably one of the biggest barriers for these folks is just general misunderstanding and just lack of willingness to try and work with that particular population. And talking to the Department of Corrections, they have one person that's helping the parole officers and helps these individuals being released from prison, helping them find jobs. But also, housing stability was a big thing for these folks just coming out of prison, [who] may not have a place to stay. And you can imagine trying to go into a community that's a little bit small, a little bit more rural, trying to find a place. One, just trying to find a place to rent because that's hard right now just for anyone. But then to trying to find a landlord willing to rent to you would be really, really hard. And so that's something that they're really struggling with.
Christy Kallevig: In the early two thousands I worked in vocational rehabilitation and it was a real challenge to get anyone to want to meet with us to talk about our clients, whether it was somebody who had a disability or an individual with a criminal history or even just somebody who didn't have the perfect job history in itself. So it's really exciting to hear that there's a shift.
Kelly Asche: Well, what was interesting is some of the parole officers were making comments that back in the two thousands, they had to beg employers to even listen to them about hiring maybe a client that they had that just released from prison. And now they have businesses calling them to figure out how they can connect to folks who are discharged from prison. And so the tide is shifting. The narrative is shifting in a really good way, but they kind of what also made statements about not being completely prepared for the shift as well. I mean, how could you be? So it was a pretty quick shift from the Great Recession to today.
Christy Kallevig: I think that one thing that kind of shows a similarity with workforce is that in the two thousands, it didn't matter if you were urban or rural, you were still finding it hard to get someone to talk to you about some of those different population groups. And so it was maybe just that in the urban areas you had more people [reporting], you know, as compared to some of the rural communities. So it's great to see that there is this, like you said, shift in the narrative.
Christy Kallevig: What differences do you see in some of those issues that you spoke about that you were seeing in rural Minnesota, how do you think that that plays out in the seven-county metro area? Do you see any of those pressures being the same or being handled a bit easier?
Kelly Asche: Yeah, just by here. Resources available to folks in the seven-county metro just because of population density and I would argue, funding availability. There's just a lot more organizations engaging with these populations to help kind of make these connections. Out in Greater Minnesota, we have the workforce development boards engage in these populations, helping businesses connect to these populations and doing workforce development in general. And we also have DEED across the state that works alongside them as well and does some of this work. But for the most part, outside of the workforce development, indeed in our cap agencies, there aren't this kind of standalone individual workforce development organizations like they have in the Twin Cities. The Twin Cities has a whole ecosystem of workforce development nonprofits that are outside of the workforce development boards and outside of DEED that get grant funding to do very specific things.
There's a lot more of them that do this kind of work. And I feel like, you know, as far as having resources for transportation as far as resources involved with organizations helping do some of training, making some of these connections, it's just much more rich than it is in Greater Minnesota. So that's one piece. The second piece, I think one of the big differences, and we talk about this in our report, is that the funding available to our organizations maybe isn't as equitable as it should be, I think, at this point in time.
Christy Kallevig: Right. And I think that one argument that it seems like I hear a lot from people is, well, that it makes sense that more money is being allotted to these seven-county metro because the population is so big there. How would you respond to that argument, I guess?
Kelly Asche: Yeah, I would say it's a valid argument and even taking that into account, it was still unequal.
Christy Kallevig: Okay.
Kelly Asche: So, so if we were to look — let me pull up an example here. So let's say the state grant and direct appropriations money — let's take that for an example. If we actually put it out, so funding per 18 to 64-year-old adults, right? So that's the population are using funding per 18 to 64 year-olds. That state funding and the Twin Cities, it was $9.65 cents per 18 to 64-year-old that went to seven-county metro organizations. That was way higher than on nearly across the state. For example, in central Minnesota, it was a $1.19 per 18 to 64-year-old.
Christy Kallevig: Okay. Oh my gosh.
Kelly Asche: In the northwest it was $5.53. Northeast it was $4.47. Yeah, there was a big difference.
Christy Kallevig: Those are huge.
Kelly Asche: Yeah, they're huge. The only region that did compare it to the metro was actually southwest Minnesota, interestingly enough at $9.51, so just about 10 cents less than the metro counties. But the only reason they were able to do so good is because they were one of the pilot programs when the initial pilot programs that started up this competitive grant program. And so they were kind of already in the mix of, as far as like they were the ones that kind of helped start it. And so they just kind of get the money every year now cause they're really good at it
Christy Kallevig: Sure.
Kelly Asche: And they do good work. But the rest of the organizations really, really struggle to be eligible for this funding. So yeah, it was a huge difference. $9.65 compared to, like I said, a buck to five bucks, four bucks. Yeah.
Christy Kallevig: That is really surprising.
Kelly Asche: Yeah. We were kind of surprised too,
Christy Kallevig: You know, one group of people that we really haven't touched on yet is high school students, our future workforce. Tell me a little bit about what you learned as you talk to people about how they're engaging high school students, not only in maybe getting them into jobs in their local communities, but also just training them so that they're ready for the next step.
Kelly Asche: Yeah, so this was another report where I was really surprised by what I was able to find out. There's a lot going on in rural areas trying to engage high school students on essentially their opportunities that are available to them in their local region, either after high school or maybe even after they graduate college. Then planting the seed that they can come back and find good opportunities. One interesting piece. Luke Greiner from DEED--he's the labor force analyst. So he actually did a really cool survey. He went down to these big career expos down in southwest Minnesota. One was in Marshall, one was in Worthington, and he kind of gives like a big talk show presentation to all the students there. They kind of cycle through in groups of 50 or 60 or whatever, asking them questions about what they're interested in, what fields, some of the money they could make, things like that.
Kelly Asche: But he does a quick survey and one of the questions he asks and they all respond using their cell phones. And one of the questions he asked was, “Do you think (he asks these 10th graders) that you could get a good-paying job in the career cluster of your choice in this region?” 75% of the students said yes. And I was really surprised by that. I always had this picture in my head that students were leaving because they thought they had to or because they figured they couldn't find a good job, but that wasn't the case with this. And so it really got me thinking about, man, what are all the ways in which we're engaging students? And let me tell you, it's a lot. So obviously you have these job expos, these regional job fairs that bring together businesses to highlight their jobs that are available to these students.
Not only like right now as a high school student, but as a career after high school or even trying to convince them to maybe go to a two-year technical college to come back and work some of these jobs, but also the apprenticeships that are going on between high school students and businesses. Actually, having them work in the business, doing some hands-on in a lot of internships. And then the big thing was career and technical instruction. So when I was going to high school it was during a time when testing was all the rage and all the community career and technical education programs went away. So things like mechanic shops, all that stuff just when I was going through no longer existed. Well now you're seeing this huge resurgence in school programs [in] redeveloping these things.
And it's really, really interesting. One that I always like to point out because I think it's kind of cool up in Brainerd, a big resort area. A lot of lakes, a lot of folks go up there. All the resorts got together and they invited the superintendents of the school districts in the region, the mayors, some city council members, county commissioners and a whole bunch of leaders in that region. They had them over to one of the resorts and they cooked for them a five-course meal and then they gave his presentation about how much they need cooks and chefs and line cooks or whatever they're all called. And even like restaurant managers, communications people; like they were in dire need of these folks and that they wanted to help start and fund something called ProStart programs, which is part of the national restaurant association educational foundation.
They start this whole curriculum that high school students can be involved in to learn about the culinary arts all the way from learning how to be a chef, to also managing a restaurant and communications and social media and stuff. And so the restaurants pitched in a bunch of money, they did some fundraising and they help install commercial kitchens in a bunch of high schools up there. And they have this ProStart program going on where high school students can participate and actually take classes on the culinary arts. And it's so far been huge success and they've had interns going in and out of their restaurants now and it's just a really cool thing. It's actually something I wish I would've had when I was going to high school.
Christy Kallevig: Yes.
Kelly Asche: Because that would have been really, really cool.
Christy Kallevig: Well, I think that just kind of that focus too on, there are things that you can learn and implement right away.
Kelly Asche: Right, right. And another one too, so LIFT, they're out of southwest Minnesota. They're LIFT Career Pathways. They are an organization that provides grants and then helps provide some services to help school districts in southwest Minnesota collaborate with businesses on developing curriculums and programs that are based on the kind of jobs and job needs in the region. So around nursing; there's also stuff about like working on planes and jets and things like that. All kinds of really cool programs. I think there's… I want to think they're getting close to 60 programs now. Or maybe it was 30, I can't remember. But, but across southwest Minnesota, a lot of really interesting, cool programs happening. Now. One thing that's really interesting, that I keep telling legislators, [people in] the suburbs of the Twin Cities metropolitan area that has obviously opportunities, but it was able to make that connection and learn about some of these rural areas. Maybe they’ve always wanting to live there but figured they couldn't find a job. Boy, that's, that's pretty cool.
Christy Kallevig: Absolutely. And so, you know, there are these shifts happening in rural Minnesota around training programs and that type of thing. Again, putting on that metro hat for just a few minutes, what do you see as kind of similarities there? Are there training programs for high school students to engage them in positions the same way that we're seeing enrollment?
Kelly Asche: I think so. You know, it's a really good question. When I first started doing this research, there was this kind of conversation around it seems like the metropolitan students had a lot more access to career opportunities and things like that just because of the natural ecosystem that's there. Again, kind of going back to all the organizations and nonprofits that already exist in the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area that kind of do this work. They are also doing some of this work in high schools. So, not just engaging populations that have high barriers to employment, but also engaging with businesses and high school students and trying to make those connections. And that was not so relevant in high schools across rural areas. Up to five, 10 years ago when testing became such a big thing. And a lot of rural school districts have such tight budgets that it needs to be acknowledged that offering these types of programs costs money and the only way they're able to offer these programs are through funding and grants through LIFT in southwest Minnesota.
I talked to numerous superintendents and program directors that are collaborating on these programs that said, if it wasn't for LIFT and the grant money, I don't know if we could do this because it costs money to offer these because you have school districts collaborating. Well, this one school district has to send those students and transport those students to another high school because they can't all offer the same program. They have to collaborate and come together at a central spot to do this. And so transportation costs are pretty big. Another key piece that's worth mentioning is that the metropolitan areas have a lot more access to teachers that can teach these programs. One interesting wrinkle when doing these career and technical education programs is that you still have to have a state secondary instructors license. Well, somebody that's going to teach, let's say nursing is probably going to be somebody that's already a professional in the field, and probably doesn't have the secondary instructors license.
They're just not sitting around. There's a lot more of those you'll see in the Twin Cities. So in a rural area, they'll have to approach the local career and technical colleges and some of their faculty. Well, guess what? The faculty don't have secondary instructors licenses… they're faculty of a college. They've never thought about having the need to have that licensure. And so these programs will then hire the faculty, but then since that teacher doesn't have a license, a state secondary instructors license, they then fail to get Perkins funding for the program so they lose out on money.
Christy Kallevig: Oh my goodness.
Kelly Asche: Yeah. It's kind of crazy. I'm just like, are you kidding me?
Christy Kallevig: Let's just add more hurdles for people to have to fight over.
Kelly Asche: Yeah, I know. And it's things, like I said, there's always good intentions and these things aren't barriers put up for a reason, to keep people out. It's just, it's just conversations need to be had to figure out how can we tweak some of this stuff to make it work better. So I think transportation funding and the teacher piece are the two main differences between implementing some of these programs compared to in the metropolitan area.
Christy Kallevig: So as we think about workforce, what is one thing that you feel rural Minnesotans should understand about the urban workforce challenges or issues they might be facing?
Kelly Asche: Oh, okay. Let's see. Well, I would say that this sounds bad, but I don't mean it to be that in metropolitan areas, the competition of the younger population is an interesting element that we probably don't feel in rural areas. You just have so much more access to talent and young people to work in positions that I think sometimes working in some of these organizations, maybe being a bit older in the Twin Cities can feel a bit of pressure from the younger people coming up. And I hear about that and the cultural changes are a lot faster. So keeping up with that, it's kind of an interesting element and I think there's a lot more of those types of issues than we would probably see in a rural area.
Christy Kallevig: Interesting. I hadn't thought of that. So that's a really good reflection to make there. And so then on the flip side, what is one thing that you feel urban Minnesotans should understand about the rural workforce and challenges or issues that we're facing out here?
Kelly Asche: Yeah. Well, I think just the main theme is that there are a ton of opportunities out here and those opportunities aren't just low wage, low skill jobs. And I'm using air quotes, which you obviously can't see.
Christy Kallevig: We can all imagine.
Kelly Asche: It's worth noting that the wages for job vacancies in Greater Minnesota have increased significantly more than they have in the Twin Cities metropolitan area. And so even though there the pay is still a little bit lower in Greater Minnesota, the increases have been highest. And so the gap that used to be between Twin Cities and rural Minnesota and meeting wage jobs for job vacancies has closed considerably. So businesses have been doing their job and increasing wages. But also I will argue too that passing the minimum wage policy made a difference too. And rural Minnesota and we need to be very happy for that policy because it made a pretty big impact in rural Minnesota wages as well. But you know, the big thing is that there's a lot of opportunity out here. A lot of good opportunities and you know, for urban folks that maybe are looking for a change of pace, you can find it out here and make a good living. And if you've got skills, bring them.
Christy Kallevig: Perfectly said Kelly, perfectly said. Thank you so much for the research that you've done, Kelly and for coming on the podcast to talk about it.
Kelly Asche: Appreciate it. Thank you.
Christy Kallevig: Thank you to Kelly Asche with the Center for Rural Policy Development for joining us today for our great conversation. You can learn more about Kelly and his colleagues’ work by visiting their website: www.ruralmn.org. Visit the University of Minnesota Extension Center for Community Vitality webpage at: www.extension.umn.edu/community-development, where you will find resources on Ben Winchester's brain gain work that Kelly referenced, as well as many other great resources for your community. Make sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter to stay up to date on new research and resources for communities and those who lead them. We hope that you will join us again for another episode of Vital Connections On Air.
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Reviewed in 2020