Rural Minnesota Concentrated Employment Program Inc. (RMCEP), is moving their offices from downtown Fergus Falls to the Minnesota State Community and Technical College Fergus Falls campus this June. RMCEP is a private nonprofit corporation that offers workforce development services in north-central and west-central Minnesota. It’s been operating out of downtown Fergus Falls employment center office since 1996 but recently partnered with the campus after a bonding bill meant to expand the M State campus was approved.
“We were asked if we would like to partner with the college and, of course, we thought that made a great deal of sense because the college is so easily accessible and also being on the campus would make us more accessible to the students who utilize our services,” said RMCEP executive director Vicki Leaderbrand. The bonding bill did not go through at first, it took about three more years for it to be approved, but now, after another three years, she says, “having gone through all of the things that are necessary to actually do the remodel of the campus and that sort of thing, bringing us to about being ready to be moved in about mid-June.”
The organization helps people prepare for, find and keep employment, including education and financial support. “Anything that basically we can remove a barrier for them, from not getting to work, that’s what we primarily do,” says Fergus Falls team leader David Smith. This includes having computers available for people to search and apply for jobs, providing people with a collection of job listings, providing financial assistance for car repairs and insurance to help eligible people get to work, help students pay for books and tuition, help fund training and more.
You cannot file for unemployment through RMCEP, but people there are available to help answer questions and provide additional resources. “We want to let people know we’re here for them, especially with everything that’s happening with COVID-19,” Smith says.
Leaderbrand believes that the move to M State will help encourage students to seek out their help and raise awareness of what resources are available to them, something Smith said even he wasn’t aware of three years ago when he was unemployed. “Our job is employment, and part of being employed is to make sure that you have the appropriate training and education to do the jobs that are necessary and required by the employers. We use our funding to help the students pay for tuition, books and fees, and of course we counsel them and work with them in developing an employment plan and we do career counseling and that sort of thing,” Leaderbrand says.
She adds that RMCEP is all about workforce development in local communities and that includes, beyond training and education, “how to go to work, how to look for jobs; we do a lot in terms of career planning and looking at occupations in demand and labor market statistics and that sort of thing.”
The organization isn’t just for students, though. Leaderbrand says, “We’re all about helping people get on their feet or regain their feet, if they’ve been laid off from a job. That’s what we do.”