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 Experiment’s “Great Jobs Without a Four-Year Degree” project before the Red Lake Tribal Council.

Home of the Red Lake band of Chippewa Indians, the Reservation is governed by an 11-member Tribal Council, consisting of three elected officers and eight council members representing Red Lake’s four communities. Seven Hereditary Chiefs serve life positions and act in an advisory capacity to the Tribal Council. Of the band’s 12,000 members, around half currently live on the Reservation.

My presentation focused on the success the Center’s Great Jobs project has had reaching young Minnesotans—and their parents—through a targeted social media campaign that uses videos to challenge misconceptions of skilled careers. Our society has developed a powerful bias that a four-year degree is optimal for everyone. As a result, today many young people start down the traditional four-year degree road because they mistakenly believe it’s the only route to success.

To tackle this urgent economic and cultural challenge, the Great Jobs project highlights the stories of real Minnesotans who have found great reward in their skilled career. The project has also built a diverse network of partners across the spectrum of organizations working in this area and has established strong credibility. Because the Tribal Council is very interested in growing their workforce and filling jobs on the Reservation, the Great Jobs project is particularly relevant to helping Red Lake reach more young people and retain skilled workers.

Following my presentation, I along with Micah Olson, American Experiment’s Greater Minnesota outreach director, toured Red Lake Nation’s Oshkiimaajitahdah (workforce center), which provides career development services for members of the tribe in areas such as welding, health care, transportation, and construction.

I look forward to pursuing a partnership with the Tribal Council and Red Lake Nation College. Through the Great Jobs project and exciting initiatives already in place on the Reservation, more young people will be able to see technical careers as exciting prospects for their own futures.