It’s possible that hundreds of people in our region are without work and are feeling overwhelmed about the prospect of getting back into the job market. It’s also very possible that those same people out of work don’t know that they have free access to resources and people that are ready to guide them back into work.

Rural Minnesota Concentrated Employment Program Inc. (RMCEP) is a private non-profit partner to Career Force located in the same building as Wadena County Human Services right here in Wadena. They are just one office of nearly 50 across the state that seek to help job seekers find success.

RMCEP helps people find jobs, get training they need to get into the job they want or can offer career exploration for those unsure about where they fit in the workforce.

Wadena’s RMCEP team leader Evie Fowler came into her position at this site just six months ago and has been working to make it known that the site is open despite a pandemic. She knows she has some work to do as frequently she is met by people who do not know what this non-profit has to offer.

“What I’m finding is that people don’t even know what Rural Minnesota CEP is,” Fowler said.

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What they are is a one-stop shop of resources for the job seeker or for the employer that needs employees.They are not the unemployment office, or welfare, or a staffing agency. They do work with the unemployed, the disabled, those with criminal backgrounds, young and old. Anybody can make an appointment to get help here.

Fowler excitedly shared the options available to the public including career planning, skills assessments, job seeking, on-the-job training, tuition assistance, assistance in obtaining a GED or high school diploma, and resume writing to name a few.

Work stations await those in need of computers and internet access. Counselors on hand can also walk people through the may resources available through their location at Rural MInnesota CEP, at Career Force in Wadena.
Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal
Work stations await those in need of computers and internet access. Counselors on hand can also walk people through the may resources available through their location at Rural MInnesota CEP, at Career Force in Wadena. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal

A staff of seven at the location includes counselors that can help guide people through the process in order to help them find success -- for free.

“We have great tools to help people better sell themselves, build confidence in themselves,” Fowler said.

Employers can find free help here too. RMCEP even has grant funding to pay an employee while they are in training for their career -- a cost savings to the employer.

Why does Fowler believe in the opportunities at Rural Minnesota CEP and Career Force? Because she, like so many others, has received help in finding a job here after the pandemic put her on furlough. She’s been there and done that.

Fowler wants more people to know about this resource largely because they have funding available right now to really help those with no resources themselves.

“We’re really struggling to get these moneys spent,” Fowler said. She knows the need for these funds exists, but they need people to know that these resources are ready to help.

Need boots for that new job? They can probably help you with that. Don’t have a computer to write a cover letter and resume? Come on down and use their equipment.

They know that people are unemployed, and may be low on money. In some cases because of unemployment payments now extended through September, some folks just don’t feel the urge to gain employment. She fears that the longer people remain out of work, the harder it will be to get back into the workforce.

That hurts employers who have jobs that need to be filled now. “Hundreds,” Fowler said of the local job opportunities. Some of these are now willing to pay thousands of dollars in sign-on bonuses just to get people on board.

Fowler recommends everyone looking for a job or who are unemployed should be on MinnesotaWorks.net. This online service is a prerequisite for those who are receiving unemployment benefits right now and it’s a major help to get notified about current job openings. It currently lists over 96,000 jobs and just under 15,000 active resumes.

A visit to the office involves an appointment and you could plan to spend up to an hour working with staff on your resume or other job skills training. Give them a call at 218-631-7660. They are located at 124 First Street SE in Wadena. To find out more visit careerforcemn.com/wadena.

Join the job fair

Later this month, RMCEP, Career Force and DEED are helping out area employers by hosting their first drive-thru job fair in front of the Career Force office. Fowler said they look forward to the opportunity to host a more normal career fair someday soon. Until then, the drive-thru option provides a quick way for job seekers to get a bag packed full of job opportunities by simply pulling up to the site.

The event takes place April 29 from 8-10 a.m. and 3-6 p.m.

If you have time, you can even take a tour of the CareerLab to see what resources they have to offer inside. Once inside you can sign up for door prizes donated by the participating employers.