Approximately 50 adult learners in Steele, Freeborn and Mower counties will have the opportunity this fall to train locally for in-demand careers.

The program is being expanded thanks to a boost in state funding that was recently approved by the Minnesota Legislature and the Walz administration, and the strong collaboration of local organizations. Workforce Development, an independent nonprofit serving the needs of job seekers and employers in southeast Minnesota, was recently awarded $950,000for the Bridges to Healthcare program for fiscal years 2022-23.

The successful Bridges to Careers program began in Rochester in 2013. More than 70 students per year in Olmsted County participate in the program. The increased funding will allow the program to be expanded to Freeborn, Mower and Steele counties. The first health career pathways this program will focus on will lead students to careers in all levels of nursing and medical assisting; positions in high demand across southern Minnesota.

The Bridges to Careers model has changed policies, curricula, support systems and institutional relationships. It’s 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 collaborations between Workforce Development, Adult Basic Education Centers (Owatonna, Austin, Albert Lea), Riverland Community College, and Mayo Clinic Health System have built the foundation for another Bridges to Healthcare program in southeast Minnesota to include other area healthcare employers. These organizations 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.

Beth Christensen, the area manager for Workforce Development, said enrolling the program is made easy.

“Often times students will apply to Riverland and their English or math skills might not be strong enough to get into their nursing program,” she said. “Riverland will then refer them back to us and this program, which then is free for the participants — including tuition.”

By contacting either Riverland or Workforce Development, Christensen said interested parties will be connected to the career navigator for this specific program. While reopening the Workforce Development Center is still in the works, Christensen said people from Steele County can connect with the centers located in Faribault, Albert Lea and Austin to learn more about the program.

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.

Riverland Community College, a member of the Minnesota State system is a community college that transforms lives through excellence in service, education, and career training. Campuses are located in Austin, Albert Lea and Owatonna. Riverland may be found online at

Recommended for you

Load comments