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Dodge County discusses future of work force

MANTORVILLE — Dodge County needs workers, and not all of them need a college degree, according to workforce experts attending an annual economic development summit.

The summit, attended by county officials, school administrators and business owners, focused on the county's workforce, housing and economic growth.

Conversations addressed questions such as how to raise people's interest in technical and industrial jobs and how to expand trade skills.

Lonnie Otterson, product training manager for McNelius Truck and Manufacturing in Dodge Center, offered the keynote speech about the importance of with workforce development and retention as well as showing support for technical education.

"Careers are not necessarily (created at) four-year colleges," Otterson said. "How do we straighten things up? How do we sustain it? … We find out what's available."


Angie Bowman, a Journey to Growth liaison, discussed how the workforce might change as Mayo Clinic expands through Destination Medical Center. She said it was important to think of how local economic growth might be connected to growth in Rochester.

"It's not just one direction, it's about optimizing talent base and becoming a connected region," Bowman said. "It's also important in expanding and diversifying career-focused technical education."

Bill Spitzer, coordinator of SE Minnesota Together, said there were plans to align and coordinate workforce solutions to address the labor shortage.

"We plan on having three conversations and we're gonna put a bunch of people around the table and address this issue," Spitzer said. "How can we get a strategy to tackle workforce? How are we going to do that and bring government officials around one table and force them to talk about workforce?"

There was also interest in programs, mentorships, apprenticeships and internships for schools in southeastern Minnesota so that students could "get a taste" of technical careers.

Randy Johnson, executive director of Workforce Development Inc ., said it was important for parents to understand that not every student needs to attend a four-year college and that post-secondary education can also mean a two-year program or a technical school.

We want to be globally educated and yet we still see the value of trade," Johnson said.

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