Filling the Gap: Teens and the Worker Shortage
A worker shortage is underway in Minnesota.
Baby boomers are retiring and leaving the workforce faster than the younger generations can replace them.
It’s an ongoing issue that will continue for the next ten years.
According to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, 20.5 percent of Minnesota workers are 55 years or older. That’s one out of every five Minnesotans.
At the same time, Minnesota is experiencing a low unemployment rate of 3.1 percent.
The pipeline of younger workers is important. That’s why programs that train and prepare young adults for the workforce are increasingly important.
Amid Worker Shortage, Companies Invest in Pipeline of Future Workers
On the Maple Grove campus of Boston Scientific, Godgift Iteghete is working with engineer Laura Miller on a project for the company’s process development department.
A Fortune 500 medical device manufacturing company is not where you would expect to find an 18 year old, but for Iteghete, this is one of her summer jobs.
“Knowing that I work for Boston Scientific, knowing that I work for these important people that change lives every day, it basically shows me or gives me an idea of how to act,” says Iteghete.
It makes sense for Iteghete, a 2018 Park Center High School graduate, to get experience in a corporate setting, but it also makes sense for Boston Scientific.
“One of our priorities is making sure that we are starting to invest in our future talent pipeline,” says Jessica Aleshire of Boston Scientific.
From corporate business to construction trades, industries across the state are struggling to find enough workers with the right skills.
“We’re really at a point, right about now or over the next two years, where we’re going to see the peak of that baby boom generation hitting 65, and that’s going to continue until the tail end of that baby boom generation hits 65 in about 2029,” says Steve Hine, director of labor market information for the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.
An aging workforce combined with a low unemployment rate are fueling the worker shortage, and Hine says the state needs to take advantage of every worker available.
“That would certainly include looking at our younger workforce,” says Hine.
BrookLynk Prepares Students for the Workforce
Making sure the younger workforce has the skills employers need is where youth employment training and mentor programs come into play.
BrookLynk is one such program.
“We play the bridge between ‘I hope to one day be an engineer,’ and ‘I can see I can be an engineer by going through BrookLynk and getting an internship as an engineer in high school,'” says Luis Salado-Herrera, BrookLynk Program Coordinator.
Teaching teenagers key job skills like professionalism, networking, and social awareness is part of the mission of BrookLynk.
Since the BrookLynk program started in 2015, hundreds of teenagers from underrepresented communities in Brooklyn Park and Brooklyn Center have earned paid summer internships through the program.
“The range of internships is broad, but what matters the most is the foundational skills that young people go into these internships with, that we prep them with,” says Salado-Herrera. “Skills like social awareness, planning for success, collaboration, these are essential skills that young people need to go into the workplace.”
For Godgift Iteghete, the paid internship at Boston Scientific is not her first job. She’s worked at McDonald’s, and this summer, she’s working a second job at Target.
“It’s been really impressive to see her work ethic,” says Laura Miller, Iteghete’s supervisor at Boston Scientific. “Knowing that she juggles two jobs at the same time and puts in a ton of hours and is really doing quality work for us, it’s been so impressive.”
As Iteghete heads to college this fall, a degree in computer science is on her radar, and she already feels a little more prepared for what’s ahead.
Meantime, supervisors at Boston Scientific intend to stay connected to Iteghete and to that pipeline of young, potential employees.
“We’re starting to see some examples now where students who were teen BrookLynk interns are returning to Boston Scientific as a college intern,” says Aleshire. “Our goal is that as they graduate from college, they will become a full-time employee.”