PRESS RELEASE: Bridges to Healthcare receives Employment and Training Funds for the Southeast Region


Workforce Development, Inc., an independent, non-profit agency serving the needs of job seekers and employers in Southeast Minnesota, was recently awarded a direct appropriation for the Bridges to Healthcare program in the total amount of $1.5 million for state fiscal years 2024-2025.

This appropriation will continue to support our existing programming in Olmsted, Freeborn, Mower, and Steele counties. This will also support expansion efforts into Rice County and potential expansion plans to Goodhue and Winona Counties, following the same successful model that has been in place in Rochester since 2013.

The Bridges to Careers model has changed policies, curricula, support systems and institutional relationships. The Bridges model has been identified as a promising practice focused on career pathway programming with employer engagement by the US Department of Education and has been honored by both the Humphrey Institute and Harvard University.

The strong public/private partnerships between Workforce Development, Inc. (WDI), Adult Basic Education Centers (Rochester, Austin, Albert Lea, Owatonna, Faribault, and Red Wing), South Central College, Minnesota State College Southeast, Northfield Hospital and Mayo Clinic have built the foundation for another Bridges to Healthcare program in Southeast Minnesota to include other area long-term care employers. These partners have collaborated on program design, implementation, expansion, and financial/navigational support. They have teamed to recruit, prepare, and support diverse, well-trained, certified, and compassionate students and transition them to employment for Southeast Minnesota healthcare providers through the below process.

On an annual basis, Workforce Development, Inc. serves thousands of people through career planning and pre-vocational skill training. One area of focus of Workforce Development, Inc. is working with populations dealing with multiple barriers to achieving meaningful employment. Our mission is to develop and advance the workforce of Southeast Minnesota. Our vision is to develop and advance the workforce of Southeast Minnesota by acting as a champion for workers, a convening agent bringing partners together to solve workforce problems, a change agent to promote and facilitate innovation and creative solutions, and the agency accountable to the individuals, businesses and communities we serve, providing measurable change. We are a customer-focused, action-oriented team of professionals, dedicated to the principles of Respect, Integrity, Innovation, Education and Community.

Workforce Development, Inc. is an Equal Opportunity Employer/Service Provider Program and a proud partner of the American Job Center network. Reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities can be provided, upon request, by calling 507.292.5152 (voice) or by using your preferred relay service.

PRESS RELEASE: People of Color and Women are Encouraged to Enroll in New Trades Readiness Training program

Media Contacts
Emily Wessing                                                                Julie Brock
Executive Assistant/Marketing Coordinator                   Project Manager
507-252-6524 |                           507-421-6487 | .  

TAGS: @BloombergDotOrg and #MayorsChallenge, #rochmn

People of Color and Women are Encouraged to Enroll in
New Trades Readiness Training Program

August 10, 2023 – ROCHESTER, MINN. – A new Trades Readiness Certificate program through Workforce Development, Inc. begins on Tuesday, August 29, 2023. The Trades Readiness Training Program provides high quality, apprentice-level training to people interested in construction industry careers. People of color and women are encouraged to apply. Applicants must be 18 years or older, have a valid Minnesota driver’s license and meet minimum math and English assessments. Training will be offered for free to eligible applicants. To apply for the Trades Readiness Training Program contact Stacy Brumfield with Workforce Development, Inc. at 507-252-5159 or

In January 2022, Bloomberg Philanthropies selected the City of Rochester as a 2021-2022 Global Mayors Challenge winner of a $1 million grant and technical assistance to create career pathways for BIPOC women in the built environment. The new Trades Readiness Training Program is part of the implementation of the Equity in the Built Environment (EBE) program.

“This training is now the basis for the Equity in the Built Environment program. It can be entered at the top of fall, spring, or summer semester. Classes are on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, so participants can work during the day,” shares Julie Brock, Project Manager with Workforce Development, Inc. and City of Rochester for the EBE program. “We finally have a stable training that is offered consistently that will get people started on their (construction trades) career journey no matter the time of year.”

The City of Rochester and Destination Medical Center (DMC) funded construction projects have workforce participation goals for people of color (15%) and women (7%). Workforce participation performance for women on tracked City of Rochester and DMC projects from April 2017 through June 2023 has been 3.6%, about half of the goal. The number of BIPOC women participating in construction workforce on City and DMC projects has been less than 1%.

Workforce Development, Inc. in partnership with City of Rochester, Minnesota Department of Transportation, Minnesota Clean Cities and Rochester Community and Technical College announce the new Trades Readiness Training Program. All Workforce Development, Inc. services are free. They services include assessment, career planning, skills training, job search guidance and resources and preparation for further training and education. They also offer scholarships and connections to many programs in Southeast Minnesota.


Career-Focused Moving: A Guide for a Smooth Transition

Guest Contributor: Sarah Velasquez

Moving for work can be an exhilarating yet intimidating experience. However, you can manage the stress, costs, and time involved with careful planning and organization. This guide offers a strategic blueprint to help streamline your impending career-inspired relocation.

Looking to change careers or jobs in Southeast Minnesota? Contact Workforce Development for support.

Analyze Real Estate Prices

Begin your relocation journey by analyzing local real estate prices in your prospective new area. This will offer a realistic view of what you can afford and where. Online listings provide detailed property market information to aid your decision-making process. Consider factors like distance to your workplace, public transportation links, and nearby amenities when choosing your new home. Being well-informed about your new area can make the transition smoother and quicker.

Reach Out to Friends in the Area

If you’re lucky enough to have acquaintances near your future work location, contact them. They can offer invaluable insights into local lifestyle, living costs, secure neighborhoods, and more. You may even be able to stay with them while house hunting, saving you from expensive hotel stays. Personal recommendations can often lead to finding hidden gems in your new area.

Set Up a Financial Plan for Moving

Setting up a financial plan for your move is essential. This should cover hiring movers, packing materials, travel expenses, temporary accommodations, and any unexpected expenses. A well-planned budget can help you avoid overspending and organize your finances during the transition. A clear financial plan can also help you feel more confident and in control throughout the moving process.

Collaborate with Moving Specialists

Working with a professional moving company can drastically reduce the stress and time involved. These experts have the knowledge and tools to handle your belongings safely. Ensure you get estimates from a variety of companies to make sure you’re getting the best price. Also, check their online reviews and ratings to confirm their reliability. Professional help can transform a daunting move into a manageable task.

Create a Packing Strategy

Creating a packing strategy can help keep things orderly and prevent last-minute chaos. Start with packing non-essential items several weeks before the move, and gradually pack the rest as moving day approaches. Clearly label each box to facilitate easy unpacking later on. A well-thought-out packing strategy can save precious time and prevent misplaced items.

Digitally Archive Critical Work Documents

Before you move, it’s advisable to archive all-important work documents and store them securely online digitally. Here’s an option: Convert your documents into PDFs that are easy to share and store. This ensures you have access to crucial information even if the physical copies get lost during the move. Having digital copies can provide peace of mind and ensure business continuity.

Keep Your Employer Informed

Keeping your employer informed throughout the relocation is essential. Share your moving schedule, anticipate potential disruptions, and discuss your availability during the transition. If your company provides relocation benefits, ensure you fully understand the terms and make the most out of it. Regular updates can help maintain a positive working relationship during your transition.

Relocating for work may seem monumental, but it can be a manageable and enjoyable process with the right strategies and resources. From researching real estate prices, reaching out to local contacts, setting up a financial plan, and collaborating with moving specialists, every step plays a crucial role in ensuring a smooth transition. Remember, a well-thought-out packing strategy and digitally archiving important documents can save you from unnecessary stress. Moreover, keeping your employer informed is critical to maintaining a solid professional relationship during this period. As you embark on this new journey, remember to carefully plan and organize.

Disabled-Owned Start-Ups Are on the Rise

People with disabilities are discovering a bright future for themselves with entrepreneurship. When self-employment means working from their home, a controlled environment already in place, it’s easy to see why the trend in business ownership among those with disabilities is expanding. Or creating an accessible brick-and-mortar business designed for their needs is becoming popular as the growing number of disabled veterans in the workplace has grown.

The Workforce Development Board of Southeast Minnesota is a nonprofit organization that connects people with the resources they need to find and gain meaningful employment. They are dedicated professionals who bring you the following ideas for how to start your own home-based business.

Getting Started

Like any business start-up, it all begins with a business plan. This is a document that lays out, in detail, expectations for how the business will be organized, funded, and staffed. What kind of inventory and production is involved as well as the kind of funding needed to launch, produce, and market the business. Marketing plans, goals, and expectations should also be included. Not only is a business plan essential as a blueprint for entrepreneurs to follow, but is required if you expect funding, grants, or loans.

How the business is structured, sole proprietorship or LLC will help you decide what kind of rules and laws will govern your business. An LLC is preferred by many entrepreneurs since personal assets are protected that way, as well as giving business owners a reduced tax burden. Rules vary from state to state, so checking with Minnesota for your local requirements is advisable. However it can all be done yourself, so you won’t need to hire an attorney.

Funding for business owners with a disability come from a variety of sources like the Federal Government, The Small Business Administration, and The Department of Health and Human Services. If you’re an artist, contact The National Arts and Disability Center. For general information, you can always contact the U.S. Dept. of Labor.

Getting Going

What kind of business a person with a disability might undertake is almost as limitless as for those who are 100% able-bodied. The limits of your disability don’t have to limit your dreams. If you want a business that stems from a hobby, like playing the violin, that could become a violin repair and restoration service. If you’re multilingual, a home business as an interpreter is one that pays well. A catering business could stem from the love of baking or web design as a business rather than something you do for friends and family. In fact, going back to school online for an IT degree can be the perfect first step. Having a degree will allow you to expand your business into areas that you may be limited to otherwise. It can also be an asset when seeking funding or grants. The advantage of getting your degree online means you’re not limited by the accessibility, or lack thereof, of the local college or university, plus you can take classes to fit your schedule and your business hours.

Keeping Going

Whether it’s a wedding and event planner, an art teacher, or an electronics repairer, make sure it’s something you love doing because you’ll be investing a lot of time and money into it. Also, make sure you’re not pushing your limits, (we all have them in one way or another) or burnout will result, especially if your plan is to grow your business outside the confines of your home where your environment is already suited to your needs.

You may even begin a business that serves others who have the same or similar limitations or special needs. No one understands their needs better than a person whose experience is the same.

Going Strong

Keep costs down by using as many online resources as you can to help your business thrive. Templates for making your own business cards, invoices, and other marketing materials can save you a lot of money for professional designers and printers. Use low-cost marketing strategies like in-person networking through chamber of commerce and business-to-business events. Social media marketing usually gives you your data analytic results for free in any of your promotional campaigns.

Having a disability does not have to keep anyone from having their dream of business ownership. With the rise of technological advances in aids for those with physical limitations, more awareness of the need for accessibility, and an understanding of the value of shopping with disabled-owned businesses means the sky can be the limit.

Submitted by Sarah Velasquez

WDI Success Story: May

Please tell us your story; what brought you to the Bridges to Careers program?

I came to the United States wanting to improve my English and start a new career. I started to take classes at Hawthorne to improve my English. Then I started my HCOP certificate and completed it. Then, I started my AOP diploma at RCTC and completed it. Bridges to Careers helped me transition from Hawthorne to RCTC to continue my education.

How would your life be different without the Bridges to Careers program?  Please share how the college prep courses, Career Navigators, job search assistance, support and/or training made a difference for you. 

The Bridges to Career program helped me pay for the Customer Service Skills certificate. They also gave me a scholarship for my AOP classes at RCTC, and they provided me with a mock interview when I wanted to apply for a job, which helped me be prepared for my job interview. They also helped me find a job position within my career and skills. This included helping me prepare my resume and cover letter. Without their help, I might not have been able to complete my diploma or be prepared to apply for a job. I want to let them know that I got hired at Mayo Clinic recently, I’m so happy that I achieved my goal and found the position I was looking for. I want to say thank you to the Bridges to Career program and Jennifer Dang who made a huge effort to help me. Jennifer is a hardworking employee, she helped me to prepare my resume and cover letter, she also helped me find the position that I was looking for, and we did many mock interviews to be ready for the actual one. Thank you so much Jennifer!

PRESS RELEASE: Best Places to Work 2022 Applications Now Open!

Welcome to the Best Places to Work 2022 process!

For the TWELFTH year in a row, Workforce Development, Inc. has connected with Personnel Dynamics Consulting, Inc. of Florida to bring the nationally-recognized “Best Places To Work” program to Southeast Minnesota! The attached flyer provides details about the current survey process.

The FREE “Best Places To Work” program is an exciting way to help employers identify what is required to attract and retain their best employees. This program is designed to:

  • Identify the “Best Places To Work” within our region
  • Educate employers on the best ways to recruit and retain employees
  • Collect important employment data from our region
  • Promote workforce issues
  • Market professional workforce associations
  • Energize business and community leaders

Any organization who completes the online survey will receive a free customized report detailing exactly how you compete with other employers in the community. The report reviews 37 different employment measurements and highlights Best Practices being utilized by employers in our region.

Employers can simply go to to begin the survey. The application deadline is March 5, 2022.

The recognition event will be done via Zoom again this year and is currently scheduled for Thursday, April 28, 2022. Details to follow.

For more information, contact Mike Postma at Workforce Development, Inc. 507.333.2081 or


Please share this information far and wide with your networks – other employers/partners, community organizations, local chambers, etc. We appreciate your collaboration.

Thank you!

Local Workforce Development Center Back in Full Force

By ANNIE GRANLUND / Owatonna Peoples Press / / / Dec 7, 2021

It has been more than three years since Owatonna has had a local workforce development office, making it difficult to connect people who are unemployed or looking for a career change with the many local opportunities throughout the area.

That all changed this October when the Workforce Development Center reopened in a new location. Though the center has been helping individuals for nearly two months, it wasn’t until last week that they were back in “full force,” according to the Area Manager Mike Postma.

“Opening up again for appointments has really kept our career planner busy,” said Postma. “We have had less foot traffic, as far as people just dropping in, but we haven’t really been advertising that option, because we weren’t all set up yet inside. We spread the word with some of our local partners, but we wanted to kind of open slowly so we weren’t hit hard all at once.”

For the local business community, though, the reopening of the office is something to be celebrated.

When the center first closed in April 2018, the administrative team made it clear that it was due to a reduction in public resources, not a drop in demand. While the focus of the centers throughout the state had shifted from unemployed people to under-employed people, the centers continue to see an increase interest in work-based training, apprenticeships, internships and mentorships.

During the last year, the center was open at Riverland College in Owatonna, 464 individuals enrolled in the program to receive a variety of services. The number reflects those who had enrolled in the Dislocated Worker program, the Steele County Out of School Youth program, the Steele County In-School Youth program, and the job club attendees.

This number, however, does not include walk in customers who used the resource area, met with a counselor, inquired about job postings, and a variety of other in-person services.

Brad Meier, president of the Owatonna Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism who was one of the biggest advocates in securing state funding to reopen a local center, said he heard first hand how missed the local office was in town.

“What we continued to hear from people is that if they wanted to access the resources they had to go up to Faribault, which isn’t the end of the world, but it definitely less convenient,” Meier said. “Often times, transportation is already a hurdle for them, so if you have to drive somewhere to get that resource then we have a problem.”

Moving across town

The center’s new location is on Austin Road on the south side of town, which Postma said they are ecstatic about the location. Not only is it easily accessible, with ample parking and along the bus route, but the office is located inside the same building that houses the United Way of Steele County.

“We already partner with them for other things,” Postma said. “Now we are right in the same building, we are just the next office over.”
Meier said the two organizations becoming neighbors makes sense for a number of reasons, but especially because of the crossover that tends to happen among the people both agencies serve.

“The United Way already works with a lot of nonprofits that are here to service people who may need just a hand up to help them move forward,” he said. “That is a great fit for who our Workforce Development Center will help, as well.”

A bright future
Postma said he sees nothing but good things in the future for the workforce in Owatonna now that important resources are once again within everyone’s reach.

“My hope and what I see as the future for us is that we really form partnerships between our organization and the folks looking for the opportunities, as well as the business and education partners who have them,” he said. “It sounds so simple, but sometimes people have a hard time making those connections, even if they know what they’re looking for. We can help make those matches.”

Though the center will often work with people who find themselves unemployed, Postma strongly suggests that anyone living in the Owatonna area consider taking full advantage of all the center has to offer.

“In my lifetime of doing this work, there has never been a better time to be a job seeker,” Postma said. “The opportunities, pay, flexibility is all available and in your favor, so if you haven’t reconsidered your career path in awhile, not is a great time to do so and to stop in.”

The Workforce Development Center has relocated to 1850 Austin Road, Suite 102, in Owatonna.
Hours are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. Call 507-333-2088 to make an appointment.
Walk-in hours are available on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

WDI Success Story: Kelli

Kelli has been a client of Workforce Development, Inc. since 2015. She has been using county benefits while working on applying for social security disability. Over the years she has attempted to work several jobs, but was never able to maintain them either due to her scheduling needs or the demands they put on her physically and mentally. Kelli thrived on routine and when COVID-19 hit, many of her regular services and appointments were disrupted. At first it was devastating and Kelli struggled to go on day to day.

One day, her son, who successfully participated in WDI’s youth programming, suggested she apply as a bus aid for the company he works for. Kelli decided to try. The odd hours (mornings and afternoons) fit well with her schedule and she soon learned she thrived working with the younger kids. The bus company has been very flexible and structures her routes around her physical and mental health services so she can continue to stay healthy. They have also discussed with her additional training so she can drive the vans as well as work as an aid. She has maintained her employment since September 2020.

What started as a sub position has lead to a permanent spot as an aide on the bus for 3-4 year-olds and special education students. Kelli says “I love it and can get those kiddos laughing like crazy!”

WDI Success Story: From COVID to CLIMB: A Self-Employment Success Story

Tracy Bjerke of Owatonna had been working as a registered dietician at Hy-Vee when she was laid off in early 2020 at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. Tracy had been working at Hy-Vee for a little over 7 years before she was laid off, so to say that the news of losing her job came as a shock would be an understatement. However, Tracy took this news as an opportunity to reflect on where she wanted to take her career and how she could use her knowledge and expertise in nutrition and wellness to improve the lives of the members of her community.

Tracy decided that she would dive head-first into starting her own intuitive eating and nutrition counseling business. Her goal would be to help individuals cultivate a healthy relationship with food, mind, and body and help clients heal their relationships with food. Tracy learned about Workforce Development and how they could help individuals who had recently been laid off from their job. Tracy was connected with a Career Planner who introduced her to the Converting Layoffs Into Minnesota Businesses (CLIMB) program designed to help entrepreneurs in Minnesota start their own business.

Now, almost one year after enrolling in the CLIMB program through Workforce Development, Tracy has launched her own private practice, Bjerke Nutrition and Wellness, LLC. Tracy hit the ground running – networking in her local community, presenting to local Rotary chapters, attending Owatonna Business Women’s presentations, and even starting a monthly segment on KOWZ radio to spread the word about her services. Her success quickly became recognized in the community and Tracy’s story was featured on an ABC 6 News story about finding career success amid the pandemic. You can view Tracy’s story here: Southeast Minnesota non-profit connects people with new jobs |

“Workforce Development has been a valuable resource for me as I have navigated starting my private practice,” Bjerke told her Career Planner at Workforce Development. While starting a business in the middle of a pandemic is no easy feat, Tracy is optimistic about the opportunities coming her way: “I am really hopeful about the future of my business but know it will take time. I am saying yes to every opportunity I can afford!”

To learn more about Tracy’s business, Bjerke Nutrition and Wellness, LLC, visit her website at:

Submitted by Cassie Wessing, Dislocated Worker Career Planner


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