Do More and Do Better on Diversity & Inclusion

June 9, 2022

Written by Elena Foshay
City of Duluth Workforce Development

The pandemic accelerated labor market trends already in motion. Talk to any employer and they will tell you they are struggling to recruit, hire, and retain employees.

The current unemployment rate is an astounding 1.4% in Duluth and 2.4% in the Northeast region – a record low.

Additionally, there are 1,114 fewer people in our region’s labor force than this time last year. Retirements accelerated during the pandemic, and the competitive labor market has increased the number of job changers. All of this is combined with almost flat population growth over the past three decades. With an aging labor force, this means we were already on trajectory toward a workforce shortage even before the impacts of the pandemic.

This unprecedented dynamic is motivating employers to look harder at untapped populations they have traditionally missed in recruiting and hiring, and to try new strategies to attract a broader range of candidates. Minnesota’s population characteristics include growing racial diversity, and in Duluth people of color now represent 15% of the population. In addition, the number of foreign-born members of the Duluth community has increased 22% since 2010. But unemployment rates for people of color in our state continue to be sit at double or triple the rate overall. Women represent fifty percent of our labor force, but visit most manufacturers or construction sites and you’ll most likely see just a handful of female workers. And many occupations in Northeast Minnesota are seeing an aging workforce, with smaller numbers of young people entering careers in those fields. The message for employers is that there remain many un- or under-tapped pools in our region’s labor force.

Increasing diversity in recruiting and hiring efforts is only one piece of expanding your labor pool.

Employers must also put effort into retention, with a focus on creating a workplace that is inclusive and supports ongoing training and skill development. This takes thoughtful, strategic, and ongoing effort with engagement and support from local workforce system partners.  

Finally, we must work together to grow the size of our labor force by attracting talent to Duluth and the Twin Ports region. This City of Duluth is working together with the Duluth Chamber, Northforce, employers, and other key partners to formulate a work plan focused on talent attraction.

This will require a multi-faceted approach that addresses key factors such as housing and child care, as well as including support for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) entrepreneurs and community-based organizations that serve as connection points for new arrivals.

Talent attraction efforts must also focus on creating a community that is welcoming and inclusive, recognizing that we need individuals and families from a wide range of backgrounds and cultural perspectives to fill jobs and keep our local and regional economy healthy and vibrant. This is an effort that will take engagement and partnership from all of us as individuals and members of the business community.

Duluth Workforce Development looks forward to collaborating as a leader and active partner in these collective efforts.

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Commitment to Change is a collaborative effort between Lake Superior College and the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce to build a more inclusive and diverse community through education, resources, opportunities, and partnerships. This robust Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion resource guide has been curated from experts across the Twin Ports to share with your organizations in honor of Juneteenth.

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