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The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce is stepping up private-sector efforts to produce more workers and match them with jobs.

The chamber, at an employment forum in Brooklyn Park on Wednesday, plans to unveil the what it calls the Center for Workforce Solutions, billed as a "first-of-its-kind [Minnesota] business-led initiative."

It will offer research and programs to confront a worsening worker shortage, expected to reach 400,000 by 2022, that threatens to slow the state's economic vitality.

The chamber and its partners have worked on a variety of strategies to address the gap, including recruiting and training more teenagers and former prison inmates. It has also encouraged federal immigration reform to supplement a slow-grow Minnesota population marked by baby boomer retirements.

Minnesota's official unemployment rate has slipped below 4 percent. The Twin Cities rate is 3.3 percent, considered virtual full employment.

The Minnesota chamber will combine public policy and the private-sector initiatives to tackle the talent shortage, said Bill Blazar, senior vice president of public affairs and business development, who will manage the workforce center.

"New collaborations are necessary to supply employers with qualified employees," Blazar said. "The Center for Workforce Solutions will proactively bring together and engage organizations and thought-leaders to mobilize our state's employers. There is not one silver bullet that's going to solve this. And the worker shortage is going to be with us for awhile."

The four pillars of the strategy are:

• RealTime Talent (RTT), which integrates education, workforce, economic development and private-sector leaders. RTT provides real-time labor market data to guide market-oriented decisions by Minnesota businesses and educators.

• MN Job Match, which helps employers find the right fit in qualified job candidates. This platform matches skills with the changing needs in the marketplace and identifies new opportunities.

• Business Education Networks in regional centers that seek to narrow the skills gap by helping students understand career opportunities and complete necessary degree and certificate programs, and help employers find skilled workers.

• Educational opportunities that converge community and business leaders facing these challenges and offer solutions to ensure long-term economic success. The center offers information that can expand employers' knowledge base and offer new, innovative approaches to recruitment and retention.

The Wednesday forum, "Workforce Solutions: Growing through Hidden Talent and Automation," is designed to help employers tap "underutilized" population segments and explore cope through efficiency and technology with a shrinking workforce.

More information:

Neal St. Anthony • 612-673-7144