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Rural MN CEP celebrates 50 years of fitting people with jobs

Executive Director of Rural Minnesota CEP Dan Wenner talks about the work of the organization during an open house Friday, Oct. 5 in Wadena. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal1 / 2
Darla Homeberg, Wadena Workforce Center team leader (left) and Karen Muckala, employment counselor, hold the plaque recognizing Rural MN CEP's 50th anniversary. To their right is executive director Dan Wenner. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal2 / 2

For the last 50 years in rural Minnesota, people have had a resource for finding work in the Rural Minnesota CEP (concentrated employment program).

One of those people that found work through the program 31 years ago was Dan Wenner, who now serves as the executive director of the organization. Wenner gave a brief presentation to a group of stakeholders and employees last Friday at the Wadena Workforce Center, where the work of getting jobs continues.

Wenner is an example of someone that started out unsure of his career path, but he was impressed with the helpful staff at the CEP. So much so, that he desired a job there. He's now been executive director for 13 years.

Wenner spoke about the need for people to find work. It goes beyond a financial need, he said, it's also about giving people a sense of worth and purpose. For the last 50 years, CEP has been working toward fulfilling those basic needs.

"We're here because no one is born to know how to work," Wenner said.

As in all the CEP locations, Wadena's is partnered up with another organization. Wadena's is located next to Wadena County Human Services.

Wenner said the Rural CEP has been able to continue to serve for 50 years because of its flexibility. According to the Wadena team leader Darla Hoemberg, the service continues to flex in varying economic times. Approximately 134,000 jobs were created in September 2018 and the national unemployment rate dropped to 3.7 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That's a rate not seen since 1969. Hoemberg could remember when Wadena's unemployment was under 2 percent. While that is good that people are employed, it meant that new business ventures had to recruit people in from surrounding counties or states to fill the need. Those people needed helping being prepared for the job as well, so even in those good times, the workforce center was an important piece of the job puzzle.

Rural Minnesota CEP is a private, non-profit partner in the Minnesota Workforce System. Over 4,600 customers were enrolled into RMNCEP employability development services last year.

In addition to assisting the general public with finding jobs, they have specific services for employers, adults, low-income adults and families, youth, senior citizens, MFIP participants and dislocated workers. Some of their services include training for new occupation, skill assessment and development, career assessments and planning, resume writing and interview training.