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Leaders meet to match jobs with grads

Local professionals gathered to help college graduates prepare for and seek career paths.

Tim Krohn, Mankato Free Press, 5-3-12

MANKATO — The five col­leges and universities in the area have 25,000 students and graduate up to 6,000 each year.

About 20-25 percent of those graduates stay in the area. But surveys of stu­dents at the largest institu­tion — Minnesota State University — show about half of all graduates would like to work and live here, but many can’t find jobs.

“This is an opportunity for us to attract businesses who could hire these peo­ple,” said Barb Embacher, vice president of Greater Mankato Growth.

About 100 business, civic and education leaders gath­ered Wednesday at a “ talent symposium” to look at research on what the area supplies in the way of employee talent compared to the number of jobs avail­able to use those talents.

“Places where we have surpluses (in potential employees) we have oppor­tunities,” said Jonathan Zierdt, president of GMG.

Data show, for example, that the area graduates far more accountants and other business majors than can be hired locally each year.

“ That’s where we’d have the opportunity to attract busi­nesses, corporate offices, who need those skills,” Zierdt said. “And those are well-paying jobs.”

An analysis of the supply of graduates compared to the number of jobs available in various sectors produced some surprises for Embacher and Zierdt.

“We’ve been hearing there’s a shortage of nurses across the country and the state,” Embacher said. But figures show that a focus on health education in recent years has led to a surplus in health science graduates.

Still, she noted that demand will likely continue to grow for certain health field graduates, such as those doing in-home care for a growing baby boomer population.

The three areas where there are far more graduates than jobs are in business management and adminis­tration; in arts, communica­tions and information sys­tems; and in human services.

Meanwhile, there is more demand than graduates in the agriculture, food and natural resources sector.

Kyle Uphoff, a regional labor market analyst with the state Department of Employment and Economic Development, said local leaders also have to keep an eye on how jobs are chang­ing and how training and education need to change.

“Recessions restructure economies,” he said, noting that some businesses sur­vive but require different skills in employees, new businesses emerge, and other businesses simply dis­appear.

“While industries change, occupations change, too.

Those new occupations require new skills.”

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