Minnesota’s accelerating talent shortage has created a mismatch in our labor market. Employers are desperate for skilled workers but are struggling to find and retain talent.

Why are these well-paying, very-little-debt-incurring career paths going unfilled?

Dave Zdon and Dan Nyberg decided to find out for themselves. After learning about the skilled labor shortage while creating LEAN Construction training, and discussing the shortage on Labor Day in 2017, the Labor Day Project was created.

“Our goal with the project is to connect underserved populations with employers who have skilled labor positions available. Positions that have career possibilities,” Dave Zdon shared with American Experiment in a personal interview. “There is a disconnect between fabulous job opportunities and not enough people to do these jobs. We address this recruitment challenge in a way that’s 180 degrees from conventional methods used today by offering employers a recruitment tool that is prospect-centered, culturally aware, and social media-driven.”

The Strategy

The Labor Day Project works with employers in construction, manufacturing, IT, transportation, agriculture, and health care to specifically address each company’s hiring landscape and identify prospects’ barriers to employment. “We use a research, creative and deployment process that helps employers create a fresh strategy to filling positions,” Zdon said. “There are potential employees not typically associated with jobs in these industries and reaching out to them is crucial to addressing the changing labor pool.”

While researching the current state of skilled labor recruitment, Zdon found recruitment messages were undeviating in their focus on only what the employer thought was important. “Employers want to attract talent, but they may not be aware of what’s preventing potential workers from being attracted to their company,” Zdon said. “Nobody seems to be digging into and asking, from the employee standpoint, ‘What’s really important to you in a job?’”

Zdon and Nyberg, both with backgrounds in video production after opting for alternatives to a four-year degree, create immersive 360VR video interviews of existing employees recorded at the workplace. “Our focus is on the success of your diverse employees in overcoming the same obstacles your prospects may see before them. Potential racial, gender or ethnic biases, scars of military service, language fluency, lack of transportation or childcare, these and many other realities are all obstacles. The Labor Day Project helps employers start the conversation with prospects about those obstacles,” Zdon said. The videos are then incorporated into a social media campaign. “We want prospects to see skilled labor positions in a new way,” Zdon continued. “Companies need workers to sustain or grow revenue, and with the state’s labor shortage and shifting workforce demographics, employers need to rethink labor recruitment.”

The Who

Potential Labor Day Project partners share the following characteristics:

  • Part of the six industry groups identified by the state of Minnesota as growth industries that need workers: construction, manufacturing, IT, transportation, agriculture, and health care
  • Have employment openings to fill that do not require a traditional four-year degree
  • Need workers to sustain and/or grow revenue
  • Willing to train workers in the skills they need to be successful at their job
  • Struggling to recruit workers for positions requiring technical skills

The Why

Minnesota’s projected worker shortage is expected to balloon to around 239,000 by 2022. To meet their workforce needs, employers should consider connecting with potential workers in different ways.

“What do underemployed or unemployed Minnesotans think about these job opportunities?” Zdon said. “If they don’t know about them, aren’t interested in them, or if their negative perceptions about them aren’t based on facts, employers need to address that.”

The Labor Day Project also works to help potential workers discover these career opportunities.

“People who have limited or no interest in college, but are willing to learn new skills for work, need to know there are employers who want them,” Zdon said. “Ultimately, we want to help change how companies connect with employees and potential workers and help move more people and families up the ladder of security and prosperity. We have a need for workers and people have a need for a decent income.”

It appears Minnesota will have more jobs than workers for the foreseeable future. But Zdon and Nyberg believe they can play an important role in closing the skilled labor gap.

“Our first step to solving the state’s workforce challenges needs to be understanding the factors that play as barriers between these jobs and Minnesota residents who want to work. Employers are begging for workers, but if they aren’t looking at these factors, they’re just shouting in the wind.”

To find out more about the Labor Day Project, visit here.

  More Updates

Dec 23, 2019

Great Jobs project visits Red Wing

As part of the Center’s “Morning in Minnesota” breakfast series, I recently traveled to Red Wing and p...

Keep Reading

Dec 19, 2019

Workforce Development on the Reservation

On December 10, I had the great opportunity to travel to Minnesota’s Red Lake Indian Reservation and discuss American E...

Keep Reading

Nov 24, 2019

Red Wing is the place to go for a ‘bike science’ degree

Listen up, bike lovers. You can now turn your leisure-time passion for cycling into a career at Minnesota State College-...

Keep Reading