Challenge: To address the ongoing and growing workforce needs in northeast Minnesota and northwest Wisconsin. 

Role: Northspan has worked with the NORTHFORCE program since its inception in 2013 and operates the program in coordination with its advisory committee. The NORTHFORCE team researches workforce development issues and best practices from across the nation. It engages with businesses at a regional level to understand and address the issues faced by employers and connected with stakeholders in workforce development and education to identify methods to fill key gaps. It built an award-winning regional portal to connect job-seekers with employers and has sustained itself as other workforce initiatives have come and gone.

NORTHFORCE also worked with area colleges and universities to develop a mentorship program, now called Student Connect, that gives students access to local employers and seeks to retain them in the region after graduation. Many of these efforts have worked to cross cultural divides and make the region more welcoming to non-residents and people of different backgrounds who can contribute to the economy but have not always felt welcome in our largely homogenous communities. 

Throughout the development of NORTHFORCE, Northspan has performed the strategic planning work necessary to sustain these initiatives and looked to stay on the cutting edge of workforce development issues. President & CEO Elissa Hansen also led the community process to name and brand the NORTHFORCE program. 

Results: NORTHFORCE is a regionally recognized resource among public and private employers, and college institutions. NORTHFORCE has expanded, adding two consultants who forge relationships with employers and making connections with candidates to retain workforce in northeast Minnesota and northwest Wisconsin.  

Reference: Ian Vincent, APEX Senior Business Developer,