Changing the DNA of the Talent to Career Exchange

By Normandale Community College, Continuing Education

"Key partnerships are altering the "talent to job to career" formula." -Shawanna Bryant, Hennepin County Human Services

For years, we have heard about the increasing skills gap - good jobs but not enough qualified workers. Logically, we understand that technological and demographic changes are driving the issue. In other ways, though, it is a problem that doesn't seem to make sense, especially when we think about all of the talented and motivated people who are unable to find that really good job - one that is interesting, challenging, and offers opportunities for growth. 

Hennepin County, one of Minnesota's largest employers, is well aware of the pains associated with workforce shortages. Facing mass retirements, the County is using a collaborative initiative to eliminate barriers and fill vital positions.  Hennepin County Administrator, David HoChanging the DNA of the Talent to Career Exchangeugh, is providing leadership to fundamentally alter the approach to finding, hiring and training new employees in about 20 job categories that don't necessarily require bachelor's degrees. Most often, the biggest obstacle for job seekers is an educational requirement. Now, instead of a degree being a prerequisite, the County is working with partners like Project for Pride in Living (PPL) and Normandale Community College to fine-tune job requirements and inject career-focused training. Shawanna Bryant is a Human Services Supervisor and Pathway Outcome Coordinator for the County. She is part of a team of leaders who are working every day to enhance the "talent to job to career" formula. She explains, "In the past, the roles and responsibilities of job seekers, educators, community-based organizations and employers remained separate. Even though we had common goals, we weren't able to break down key barriers and leverage opportunities until we collaborated in very intentional ways."  Dr. Joyce Ester


Hennepin County, PPL and Normandale are successfully delivering an innovative program. The partners have secured various funding sources including a Pathway to Prosperity (P2P) grant through theDepartment of Employment and Economic Development (DEED). The most recent P2P project is focused on careers in Human Services.The partners have landed on several best practices. For example, Human Services, as a career focus, offers many entry points and paths to advancement. It is an area that allows adults with different skill sets and interests to prepare for a variety of professional positions.

Additionally, the program is designed to maximize learning and limit challenges. Books are delivered to the participants and tutoring and support services are embedded in the program.

The entire program is built around the cohort of learners. As a group, they complete job training, earn college credits and participate in internships. Conrad Carlozzi, Career and Education Advancement Manager at PPL, shares that the cohort approach is about more than just the learning. He says, "each person in the cohort finds that they have access to many resources, new friends as well as partners who want them to thrive not only in the short-term but over time." 

Normandale is proud to be the educational partner in this project, and plans are already underway for another cohort beginning this fall. Dr. Joyce Ester, Normandale President, explains that "this program fits our mission - providing a great education while remaining responsive to the career goals and busy lives of our students."


Another Human Services Pathway program is scheduled to start at Normandale this October. The program is grant funded and FREE to those who qualify. If you would like to learn more about this exciting career opportunity, contact PPL's Abbie Hanson at 612-455-5293 or Normandale's Continuing Education at 952-358-8343. 

By the numbers

35 percent of Hennepin County workforce is eligible to retire by 2025

Over 100,000 more metro jobs will be available than qualified candidates in the next five years

In 25 years, nearly all of our region's workforce growth will be new Americans and people of color

Human Services Pathway Participants, 2017