November 30, 2022
A consortium of partners has come together to solidify a rural regional workforce initiative with a two-pronged approach which includes workforce attraction and student work-based learning in rural Region 4, which includes Nelson, Pembina, and Walsh Counties.
Recent business surveys completed by the Red River Regional Council concluded the need for upward of 1,000 new employees in manufacturing, healthcare, education, and small businesses over the next five years. The strong workforce need has been growing for several years and an impending state/federal grant award through the Regional Workforce Impact Program (RWIP) will provide a significant boost to addressing these needs. The Nelson, Pembina, and Walsh County Job Development Authorities have come together to provide the 25% matching funds leading to a total budget of $250,000 as short-term one-time funding to launch this initiative.
This budget is being invested in a professional workforce attraction consultant team that will work with an Advisory Group of regional private and public partners and employ a regional workforce director over the coming months. The purpose is to prepare the necessary content and marketing strategy to promote the region as a quality place to live, work, and play.
The workforce attraction will be added to ongoing student-focused workforce development efforts that have been growing over the past eight years. North Valley Career and Technology Center (North Valley) offers a variety of programs for K-12 students that offer opportunities to learn about local careers and jobs, develop entrepreneurship skills, and gain work experience in partnership with many regional employers.
With more than 500 employees in Grafton, Marvin has long recognized the benefits and challenges of being a rural employer, and strongly supports the launch of this rural initiative.
“This initiative will allow our rural areas to level set with larger communities who have created their own marketing materials. This will be an excellent opportunity for us to get the word out about our region and attract individuals and families to Grafton and other area communities,” said Vicki Ham, Senior Human Resources Director for Marvin in Grafton. She is also serving on the initiative’s Advisory Committee.
Stacie Sevigny, an 8-year developer with the Red River Regional Council in Grafton will take on a new role as Director of Workforce Development for Nelson, Pembina, and Walsh Counties.
“This new initiative is a critical investment in the future of our rural region’s manufacturers, businesses, employers and communities, and we are so excited to promote Stacie into this role, as she brings incredible experience working with businesses and communities,” said Dawn Mandt, RRRC executive director. Sevigny has worked as a developer for RRRC since 2014.
Part of Sevigny’s role will focus on work-based education programs in collaboration with North Valley.
“Our goal is to fill the open jobs in our region and expose our students to opportunities – and there are a lot of great career opportunities,” said Mike Hanson, director at North Valley. “The needs are changing, and we need to stay relevant and continue to make strides to meet the needs of the 21st-century
workforce. Stacie will coordinate all the work-based learning for our member school districts, businesses, and industries.”
Sevigny brings considerable knowledge and experience in working with businesses and the needs of the region, and she will be a tremendous asset for the development of these programs, Hanson said.
Annually, more than 1,500 K-12 students participate in work-based learning and career exposure programs that have developed over the past eight years. Today, more than 145 regional businesses are involved with job shadowing, internships, and other work-based learning. These efforts have also been built and grown in regional collaboration with North Valley, Grafton and Park River EDCs, Walsh and Pembina County JDAs, Red River Regional Council, Northeast Manufacturing Group, and ND Career Builders Program.
“I’m very excited to move into this new role that focuses both on attracting workforce and showing our students there are many, many opportunities for them here,” Sevigny said. “We heard from businesses and communities that the workforce is among their biggest challenges. We have a story to tell and will reach more people by working together on marketing, workforce attraction, and on building up our young people.”
The RWIP grant is a much-needed investment in the future of rural communities and businesses, according to Mandt. “The rural population of our region is 35,000 people – about the same as the City of West Fargo – and share the same types of needs and yet do not have the financial means as densely
populated cities. Therefore, we are often years behind in these types of initiatives while we await grant opportunities such as RWIP.”
This initiative has secured short-term funding and private and public partners will be needed to create stable, long-term funding to meet the goal of seeing people relocate to the area.
According to Mandt, the timing of this initiative is excellent as a 2021 Gallup poll found that 48% of Americans were interested in moving to a small town or rural area.