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MANKATO — An agricultural and manufacturing workforce session attended by regional employers at South Central College Thursday promoted how the organizations can attract and retain new workers.

Drawing workers to these industries will be especially important in the coming years as workforce shortages are projected — an issue other sectors are dealing with as well.

A new job portal, launched with the help of legislative funding in February, was among the resources partners highlighted at the session.

The RealTime Talent Exchange was established as a way for small- and medium-sized businesses to be paired with interested applicants. The service can be accessed through RealTime’s own website, but also through other partnering organizations like GreenSeam.

The exchange is for more than just agricultural jobs, but more ag businesses getting involved will only be a good thing for both employers and employees, said Mary Kay Delvo of AgriGrowth, the organizer of Thursday’s session.

“The more we can populate it, the more it’ll be valuable for everyone,” she said.

The site’s matching capabilities can be particularly useful, she said. For both sides of the hiring process, stars are assigned to show how good of a fit the job would be for the candidate.

Streamlining the search for employees can be especially helpful for the agriculture sector, as employers in the industry have struggled to bring in new talent to replace outgoing workers.

Delvo said one reason for the struggle has to do with people’s traditional images of agriculture jobs.

“There are fewer and fewer people who have a connection to agriculture to understand it,” she said. “Because there’s a distance and lack of understanding, you tend not to think of it as a job option.”

Sandee Joppa, executive director of RealTime Talent, said job postings in the field go well beyond fields and animals. Desk jobs within the industry are just as needed, she said, although most wouldn’t realize it.

“I don’t think a typical person would make that assumption, that there’s a big pull for finance types in agriculture,” she gave as an example.

The businesses, then, have to fix that perception. Brad Schloesser, dean of the Southern Minnesota Center of Agriculture, said many partners are working on the issue.

He too said the job portal can help with this by advertising their business, and all the different jobs available within it, to more candidates. It adds another resource apart from the old ways of searching for candidates — referrals and job fairs.

“With an increase on the exit and a larger demand for those that are incoming, we felt the agriculture exchange would provide a better opportunity,” he said.

The session also included breakouts on other recruitment strategies, from management styles for different generations to internship set up. Three other sessions will be held in other regions of the state in the coming weeks.

To check out the talent exchange, go to

Follow Brian Arola @BrianArolaMFP.

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