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Diversity Committee Reaches Out to Workforce, Students

May 1, 2014

Diversity Committee Reaches Out to Workforce, Students

By Marcus Thomas, Director-Consultant, APWA-MN

In 2013, the relatively new APWA-MN Diversity Committee identified “outreach” as its primary goal and basis for its initial activities. In general, the outreach goal focuses on increasing the diversity of our Minnesota public works industry as well as the diversity of our APWA-MN Chapter membership through increased contact with minority populations. The committee’s outreach goal was further divided into short term, mid-range, and long term initiatives.

The goal of the mid-range initiatives, which is the focus of this article, is “to reach out to existing workforce and college students, and inform them of the opportunities in careers with Public Works agencies.” 

This is a strong initiative; one that has the potential to capture talented people who might otherwise forge careers in other fields.

Current engineering students, technical college students, and already-trained workforce personnel who have the skills, aptitude, and creativity that can lead Minnesota’s public works profession should be made aware of career opportunities that exist for them. This is the intent of our mid-range initiatives.

In public works, we remind ourselves, regularly, of the “behind the scenes” nature of our work -- the fact that most of our accomplishments go unnoticed and are taken for granted by much of the general public (which is arguably an attribute of our good work!).

The strategy of the Diversity Committee is to pull back the curtain, and to reveal the contributions our profession provides to Minnesota every day. Our goal is to share the experiences of our public works professionals with relevant post-secondary students and current qualified workforce personnel so that public works, as a career, is not overlooked or disregarded simply because these folks were not engaged or made aware of the opportunities that exist in both the public and private sectors.

As a chapter, APWA-MN recognizes the need to increase the prominence of our public works profession and the need to cultivate qualified individuals who will continue to enhance and carry forward the value of our work. Our membership can be commended for already doing this in so many different ways -- through our Education & Training Committee, through our Student Chapter, through our Communications Committee, and others.

It is only a short reach, now, to focus similar efforts more directly towards minority populations, and our work has already started:

  • We are currently in the process of identifying relevant technical college programs with higher numbers of minority students.
  • We recognize the Student Chapter at the University of Minnesota as an access point to minorities enrolled throughout the College of Science & Engineering.
  • We are also researching Minnesota career fairs for potential exposure opportunities.

The ultimate objective of this foundational work is to put our public works professionals face to face with the next generation of leaders who will also represent a cross section of the public we serve. This will benefit our profession, it will benefit our individual agencies, and it will benefit us individually.

The demographics of Minnesota continue to evolve. Public works must continue to evolve. APWA-MN must continue to evolve.

Our best approach to staying engaged with the public, staying relevant to the public, and increasing the support of the public is for us to best represent the public -- through the values common to us all and through the diverse ethnic-, generational-, cultural- and gender-based interests of our state.

The Diversity Committee looks forward to increasing the awareness of our APWA-MN membership. We welcome those with an interest and availability to help advance our initiatives.

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