A collaborative workforce retention initiative is hitting the mark, based on survey results and feedback from the 2nd annual Northern Valley Career Expo.   

    The event, which featured hands-on exhibits and break-out sessions, introduced 1,250 sophomores from 23 high schools in Northeast North Dakota and Northwest Minnesota to in-demand careers in the Northern Red River Valley.    

    Nearly 95 percent of exhibitors responding to a survey after the Nov. 13 event said they view the Expo as a viable strategy to impact regional workforce retention.   

    An exhibitor emailed us immediately after the event and said, “I truly believe this is one of the better ideas that have become a reality in our region. I hope to come back every year.”    

    About 82 percent of students responding to the survey said the Expo introduced them to a career in an area they hadn’t previously considered. Nearly 76 percent said the event increased their interest to pursue a career within the region. And more than 80 percent of the students indicated the event helped them determine high school courses they should take.   

    This feedback validates that we are achieving our goals with this event. If our region is going to retain youth to build careers here, it’s important they be introduced early to the employers and career options.   

    As sophomores, students begin to map out careers and related post-secondary requirements. This is the perfect age to involve students in an event like this. They see the possibilities and still have time to fulfill high school courses that put them on a path to the career they discover at the Expo.    

    We are part of a 10-member planning committee that includes representatives from workforce, economic development and education organizations in Northwest Minnesota and Northeast North Dakota. This committee is already focused on expanding next year’s event, continuing this workforce development effort as part of a regional recruitment and retention necessity.