The Dakota-Scott Workforce Development Board recently held its Legislative and Employer Awards luncheon. Honorees included:
Mark McAfee Friend of Workforce Development Award
Cathy Weik, senior vice president and administration/compliance officer for Stratis Health in Bloomington, received the Mark McAfee Friend of Workforce Development Award. It is presented to an individual who has championed workforce issues at the local, state or federal level.
Weik's leadership roles included chairperson of the Dakota-Scott Workforce Development Board; chairperson of the Metropolitan Workforce Board, chairperson of the Minnesota Workforce Council Association (MWCA), and chairperson of the National Association of Workforce Boards (NAWB).
"Cathy has served the nation's workforce development efforts well," said Ron Painter, CEO of National Association of Workforce Boards. "Cathy never lost focus on what our mission is and on the work of local workforce development boards — building a workforce development system that is world-class in its assistance to business and to job seekers."
Business Champion Award
MWI Animal Health in Shakopee received the Business Champion Award. It is presented to an outstanding company that uses WorkForce Center services such as the job fairs, job postings or training.
MWI Animal Health is a wholesale distributor of animal health products and is a division of AmerisourceBergen. In total, MWI Animal Health has 15 warehouses nationwide. The Shakopee site currently employs 65 warehouse workers. MWI Animal Health has worked with the WorkForce Center to promote jobs with flyers in the resource room and attend weekly hiring events. MWI has hired five employees through the Shakopee WorkForce Center to fill their order picker vacancies. Many of these job candidates completed applications on-site and were offered on the spot interviews at the hiring events.
Bob Klas Sr. Entrepreneur Award
Wild Fig Marketing in Burnsville received the Bob Klas Sr. Entrepreneur Award, which recognizes a local entrepreneur success story.
Wild Fig Marketing helps growing businesses break through to the next revenue level with online marketing. They offer content creation, lead generation and marketing automation services. They work with business owners to determine if there are any gaps in their sales process or new client onboarding, and then build systems to fill the gaps and automate the processes.
The company was on target to have a 7- to 10-percent increase in sales last year when Wild Fig Marketing owner Kari Switala's 14-year-old son had a major ATV accident and spent all summer in a wheelchair. Sales came to an abrupt halt so they could care for him. The company rebounded and is now back on track and looking to finish the year strong and hit the 10-percent goal.
Wild Fig is also active in the community.
"I'm a big believer in giving back to the communities we serve in a variety of ways," Switala said. "I've organized special events and collected funds and donations for Bundles of Love and other nonprofits. I also love to get involved with our youth. This fall I presented to the Burnsville High School DECA program as well as the MNCAPS program in Lakeville. It was an awesome experience."
Employer of the Year for People with Disabilities Award
Kwik Trip received the Employer of the Year of People with Disabilities Award, which recognizes an employer who hires, recruits, supports and retains people with disabilities.
"Kwik Trip is very deserving of this award," said Marci Jasper, a business consultant for the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. "Their retention rate shows the culture of this company. It is a wonderful place to work and has embraced people with disabilities wholeheartedly."
Kwik Trip reached out to Minnesota's Vocational Rehabilitation Services more than five years ago for help filling positions. The retail helper position was one they were specifically looking at. Over the last five-plus years, the company has hired more than 100 retail helpers. About 17 of those employees are from within Dakota and Scott counties. They have also promoted several retail helpers to guest service associates. The Hastings store has promoted two retail helpers and is in the process of promoting a third.
Willis E. Branning Excellence in Youth Employment Services Award – Dakota County
Ricky Conaway, general manager of five Subway restaurants in the Eagan and Burnsville areas, received the Willis E. Branning Excellence in Youth Employment Services Awards for Dakota County. The award is for organizations or programs, an employer, or an individual who has demonstrated a commitment to and effectiveness in preparing young people ages 14–24 to enter the workforce. This year's award was sponsored by the Dakota-Scott Youth Committee in partnership with Dakota Electric Association.
"Over the last two years Ricky has permanently hired five youth in unsubsidized employment," said Rachel Grosskurth, a youth counselor for HIRED. "Ricky has been a great asset to the youth in Dakota County in obtaining unsubsidized employment."
Willis E. Branning Excellence in Youth Employment Services Award - Scott County
The Minnesota Center for Advanced Professional Studies (MNCAPS) received the Willis E. Branning Excellence in Youth Employment Services Awards for Scott County. MNCAPS is a profession-based immersion program in the Prior Lake Savage Area Schools and an example of innovation in education. MNCAPS offers a unique way for high school students to apply their course work in real-world settings through hands-on learning, solving authentic problems through project-based assessments, personalized learning, and working one-on-one with mentors in the community, all while earning high school and college credits.