PIONEER PERSPECTIVES: Taking steps to fuel our future workforce

No one has an exact set strategy, but I think there are a lot of little things each of us can do to help bring big change to the future workforce.

Annalise Braught mug.jpg
Annalise Braught is a photographer and editor at the Pioneer.

The phrase “workforce shortage” has become commonplace over the last few years. Not that hiring has ever been easy, but the coronavirus pandemic and the economic fallout that came with it have definitely exacerbated the problem.

During the past few years as this issue has worsened, I’ve had numerous conversations with business leaders and folks at the Bemidji and Minnesota Chamber of Commerce about ways that we can encourage young people to enter the workforce and graduate from high school and college.

No one has an exact set strategy, but I think there are a lot of little things each of us can do to help bring big change to the future workforce.

Thankfully, we have had consistent success hiring here at the Pioneer in recent years, largely thanks to the wonderful connection I and others in our newsroom have with our alma mater, Bemidji State, and the professors in the Integrated Media Department there.

So it’s not as though I’m worried about current open positions or hiring someone tomorrow. But I had a conversation with a colleague just last week and we were talking about “feeding the bench.” What are we doing to promote journalism to the next generation? We also talked about how desperately the field of media needs diversity and new blood to keep things fresh and honest in local communities everywhere.


While I have done a great job getting new blood and fresh perspectives to our newsroom over the past several years, we are still definitely lacking on the diversity front.

That isn’t for lack of trying to recruit people from different backgrounds, cultures and ethnicities. But systemic issues can make it difficult to find qualified candidates, especially in more poverty-stricken or rural areas with fewer opportunities.

In my mind, the solution is not just waving this off as a simple, “It’s not my fault only middle-aged white people applied,” and requires us to ask the question, “What can I do to help more people have the qualifications needed to apply for this job?”

I personally want to do the latter and find ways to make things accessible to all and encourage people who may have never considered a career in journalism to give it a chance.

My colleagues and I are invited on a regular basis by BSU professors to present to classes on what it’s like to be a real-world journalist, photographer, etc. I’ve always thought that it’s a perfect way to help them gain perspective on what they are about to graduate with a degree in and motivate them to get internships and entry-level jobs in our field. We’ve even been able to hire a few straight out of those classes in the past.

All of that is definitely a perk, but after talking to a professor last fall about overall declining college enrollment and the need to encourage more students to go into fields like media, it got me thinking even more about how we in the professional world can help even before college.

High school is an obvious place to turn, as younger students from all walks of life filter through those walls and might not feel like graduating or enrolling in college at all, unless they find something that speaks to them and pushes them to believe in themselves.

Here in Bemidji, we have an amazing program called the Bemidji Career Academies. Its mission is to “create unique learning opportunities for students and business/industry partners to collaborate and prepare the next generation of employees and community leaders.”


So before college, students are able to get a peek at a career field they are interested in through this program by collaborating with area businesses to get kids hands-on experience.

“Bemidji Career Academy students will be given the opportunity to assess their skills and talents as they pertain to the world of work, build skills transferable to the workplace by taking courses specific to their chosen Career Academy, access free college courses while in high school to help prepare for higher education,” the website reads.

I have been aware of this program for many years, but it wasn’t until that conversation last fall that it really got me questioning what I, and others in my field, are actually doing to encourage young people to go into media in the first place. Yeah, talking to them once they are in college is great. But what are we doing to get them in that classroom?

Fast forward to May, and here we are gearing up to host our first Exploring Program, a partnership with the Bemidji Career Academies and Boy Scouts of America. I know it’s just the beginning, but I’m so excited to be getting kids thinking about what the world of journalism has to offer long before they start enrolling in college classes.

Because of programs like the Bemidji Career Academies, I think our future workforce is in good hands. The more of us that join in and participate in programs like this, the more opportunities students will have to find their future careers early on. This will lead to more qualified people entering the workforce, keeping our businesses thriving for years to come.

If you’d like to learn more about the program, visit

Annalise Braught is a photographer and editor at the Pioneer. She can be reached at (218) 333-9796 or

Opinion by Annalise Braught
Annalise is the editor and a photographer at the Bemidji Pioneer. She is a Mass Communication graduate from Bemidji State University. Her favorite pastime is exploring the great outdoors and capturing its natural beauty on camera. Contact Annalise at (218) 333-9796, (218) 358-1990 or
What To Read Next
Get Local