Employers are Building More Inclusive Places to Work in Northwest Minnesota

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Inclusive Workforce Employer (I-WE) logo

Minnesota’s workforce is becoming increasingly diverse – most workforce growth in the coming decade will be from Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) workers. However, many disparities in employment and economic outcomes exist for BIPOC Minnesotans. To help address these disparities and acknowledge the critical role a diverse workforce plays in organizations’ success, Northwest Minnesota employers launched an initiative to recognize organizations that foster an inclusive workforce.

The Inclusive Workforce Employer or I-WE designation is an innovative workforce solution that emerged from discussions among several organizations in Northwest Minnesota brought together by the Regional Workforce Alliance. The Alliance called a summit of area employers to celebrate the diversity of the regional workforce and brainstorm how to drive a more inclusive and equitable regional economy. The Equity Summit, as it came to be known,  produced  an employer-led solution  to recognize regional organizations that  intentionally develop more inclusive practices in their workplace and an overall culture. 

Ultimately, employers aim to leverage the I-WE designation  to recruit and retain employees from an increasingly diverse talent pool, and harness that diversity into a competitive advantage. Indeed, regional labor market information demonstrates the need for such a bold initiative.

Table 1. Employment Characteristics by Race & Hispanic Origin, Northwest MN: 2000-2018

 

2018 Labor Force

2018

Labor Force Participation Rate

2018 Unemployment Rate 

2000 Labor Force

2000 -2018 Number Change

2000-2018 Percent Change

Total Labor Force

286,556

64.1%

3.9%

261,911

24,645

9.4%

White alone

266,966

64.3%

3.3%

249,469

17,497

7.0%

Black or African American

2,711

62.1%

9.6%

600

2,111

351.8%

American Indian & Alaska Native

8,841

58.6%

16.5%

6,919

1,922

27.8%

Asian or Other Pac. Islanders

2,152

65.3%

2.0%

1,368

784

57.3%

Some Other Race

1,496

67.6%

6.4%

1,307

189

14.5%

Two or More Races

4,350

65.4%

7.6%

2,248

2,102

93.5%

Hispanic or Latino

7,496

74.4%

5.6%

2,983

4,513

151.3%

Source: 2014-2018 American Community Survey, 5-Year Estimates; 2000 Census  

 

Since 2000, every non-white racial and ethnic group in the Northwest Minnesota experienced labor force growth.  Three of the five racial groups added over 1,900 workers each, including Black or African Americans (up 2,111), American Indian and Alaska natives (up 1,922) and people identifying as two or more races (up 2,102).

In both 2000 and 2018, American Indians and Alaska natives represented the largest minority population in Northwest Minnesota. Their presence in the labor force increased by more than 28 percent during that stretch of time. But other racial groups grew at an even faster pace since 2000. In 2018, the region’s Black or African American labor force was estimated to be three and one-half times larger than in 2000. The increase in Asians or other Pacific Islanders and people of two or more races also outpaced that of American Indians, growing at 57.3 and 93.5 percent, respectively.

The Hispanic or Latino population, which is an ethnic category rather than a racial group, added 4,513 workers (more than any other minority group). The net increase from 2000 to 2018 in Hispanic or Latino labor force entrants exceeded that of any other non-white race by more than 2,400 workers. When compared with categories of race, only the Black or African American labor force had a higher rate of increase in  Northwest Minnesota (see Table 1).

Fast forward to July 2020, when three businesses were designated by the Regional Workforce Alliance as part of the Inclusive Workforce Employer (I-WE) pilot program. The businesses included in the pilot program, CHI St. Joseph’s Health, Goldmark Property Management, and DyCast Specialties, each represent a different industry. In order to receive such distinction, each organization met four criteria that were agreed upon at the Equity Summit:

  • Express a commitment to an inclusive workplace in their stated values, mission or policies
  • Assess how diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) influence their work and culture
  • Provide diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) education for staff and leadership
  • Allocate resources to support and sustain an inclusive and equitable workplace

 

Each business took unique steps  to implement  each criterion, based on what was best for their organizational  development. For example, DyCast Specialties, a manufacturing establishment in Starbuck, MN that produces precision aluminum and zinc castings using a high pressure die cast process, worked with the Minnesota State Community and Technical College in Detroit Lakes to design a customized inclusion and intercultural training program for its front-line workers. “The I-WE program allowed us to formalize what we have always strived for as an organization – to be an inclusive and equitable place of business” says Ed Bolas, Human Resource Director. “The framework and resources helped us communicate this commitment internally with our workers and externally to our customers,” he continues “Our work with I-WE supports our EEO compliance, but takes it a step further by demonstrating how we incorporate these principles throughout our business.”

The local Workforce Development Board and I worked with the pilot participants to find the right resources for them, depending on their industry, staff capacity, prior DEI knowledge and programming. As the I-WE designation moves toward a broader launch, it is a priority of CareerForce staff and partners to support businesses that are taking similar steps, and promote inclusive workforce employers to career seekers who are ready for a change.

Businesses in the pilot program agree that one of the challenges will be to sustain this work beyond the initial steps, and continually advance inclusive workforce practices. However, regional business leaders are eager to share knowledge and lessons learned with others who are ready to prioritize diversity, equity and inclusion in the Northwest Minnesota economy.

For more information about the I-WE program, please visit https://www.rwa-nw.org/inclusive-workforce-employer or contact DEED Workforce Strategy Consultant and I-WE coordinator Chet Bodin at chet.bodin@state.mn.us

 

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