Minnesota Indigenous Workforce Initiative (MIWI) featured at Central Minnesota event

People standing together in an office hallway

Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan with New Flyer and Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development staff during a visit to the New Flyer facility in St. Cloud in January 2024.

Native Americans face some of the deepest educational, employment and economic disparities in Minnesota and across the country, as foundational systemic barriers to prosperity persist.  


The Minnesota Indigenous Workforce Initiative (MIWI) seeks to help address those disparities – and help Minnesota employers recruit, hire and retain the dedicated workers they need for their businesses to thrive. 


DEED’s Northwest Minnesota Workforce Strategy Consultant James Whirlwind Soldier launched MIWI in 2023 in partnership with the state’s Native American leaders and non-Native employers. The goal is to create a pipeline of Native American workers who are prepared to enter high-growth and high-wage employment in meaningful careers with organizations that strive to be an employer of choice for Native American people. 


Bus manufacturer New Flyer joined MIWI when it launched and is actively engaged in the initiative’s work, as highlighted during a visit by Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan during a visit at the company’s St. Cloud manufacturing facility on January 18. In addition to highlighting their involvement in MIWI, New Flyer also highlighted outcomes from grant funding the company received from DEED and detailed the assistance they’ve received from the Workforce Strategy Consultant team to find the skilled workers they need.


The Workforce Strategy Consultants are maintaining a MIWI Career Pathways Database to connect employers and Native American workers. As MIWI grows, the Workforce Strategy Consultant team will develop a Native American-written curriculum for employers to support them in retaining and developing Native American employees. 


For more information about MIWI, contact James Whirlwind Soldier at james.whirlwindsoldier@state.mn.us