New Opportunity: Student Connect

NORTHFORCE has launched added programming to help connect area students with local professionals and organizations that are invested in our community: Student Connect.

In partnership with higher education and K-12 institutions, Student Connect serves students from all 12 colleges, universities, and technical schools across the NORTHFORCE region of Northeast Minnesota and Northwest Wisconsin. The purpose of the added programming is to retain talent locally by creating an environment where students feel welcomed into our community and develop genuine professional connections.

Student Connect centers around eight professional development programming opportunities in 2021. Four will host business meet and greets featuring major local employers including PolyMet Mining, the Area Partnership for Economic Expansion (APEX), and more. The other four will explore professional development topics tailored for Northland students.

“We designed Student Connect to meet the needs that have been clearly and repeatedly expressed by regional employers and our partners in workforce development and the education sector,” said Elissa Hansen, President & CEO of Northspan, which powers NF. “COVID-19 adds a whole new layer of complexity, but these conversations have been evolving in the same direction for years, along with our plans for Student Connect.”

Originally, the added programming also involved campus events and employer meet and greets at business sites around the region. Student Connect will likely initiate those events to supplement virtual programming offerings when pandemic conditions allow. For the time being, virtual events have unique advantages — including the ability to host unlimited student attendants via Zoom.

Going virtual gives students the chance to connect directly with other students across the region and employers that interest them in virtual breakout sessions. This setup taps the unexpected benefits that have emerged from virtual job fairs that NF has hosted recently in partnership with CareerForce.

Employers that have participated in recent online events have highlighted several advantages of virtual career fairs compared to traditional fairs. Above all, employers appreciate the ability to talk to smaller, more focused groups of students who have a high level of interest in their organizations. 

Student Connect takes this working model and extends the format, coordinating between employers and education institutions to:

  • Expand internship opportunities
  • Provide employment coaching services based on regional hiring demand data
  • Facilitate student job placement, locally
  • Inform students about opportunities to volunteer and get involved in the community
  • And more!

The Northland hosts a large population of students who choose to come here for their college years, yet a vast majority of graduates leave our area after they graduate. Through Student Connect, students from all 13 campuses in the NF region can meet other students from the area, learn about local employers, and make connections with leading professionals. 

Organizations and businesses interested in partnering with Student Connect can learn more by emailing Desiree Yourczek at

Students interested in participating in Student Connect can learn more and sign up here:

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