Student Connect Wraps Up For Spring 2022

Duluth, Minnesota – Tuesday, May 17, 2022: This April saw the conclusion of a semester of Student Connect programming through Northspan’s NORTHFORCE program. The six virtual sessions helped area students connect with local professionals and organizations that are invested in our community. The free programming took place via Zoom and was open to unlimited attendance from area students and job seekers. 

“We designed this semester of Student Connect to meet the hiring needs that have been clearly and repeatedly expressed by regional employers as well as our partners in workforce development and the Northland’s higher education system,” said Elissa Hansen, the president and CEO of Northspan, which powers NORTHFORCE.  

Spring 2022 Learning Sessions & Curriculum  

This spring’s three free learning sessions allowed students to explore professional development topics tailored to candidates seeking careers in northeast Minnesota and northwest Wisconsin:

Feb. 8: Personal Branding & Professional Connections

Mar. 1: Community Involvement & Social Impact

Mar. 29: Personality Profiles, Group Dynamics & Cultural Fluency 

Area employment experts provided info about the regional job market, including data on major Northland employers, regional high-demand industries, high-demand roles within each field, and competitive salary ranges.

Students also had the chance to meet one-on-one with a NORTHFORCE consultant and receive a free Intercultural Development Inventory from a certified IDI administrator.    

“I’ve been able to expand my network with the region,” said Autumn Johnson, a sophomore at Lake Superior College who participated in Student Connect this spring. “I will recommend this program to other students because it helped me build my own confidence in my personal brand and how I want to be seen as a professional. I have learned more ways to become connected to my community and have gained great insight to my cultural competency.”

The program’s three business meet and greet sessions gave students a chance to participate in Q&A sessions with major area employers. This spring’s featured employers were: 

  • Duluth Seaway Port Authority
  • North Shore Adventure Park
  • APEX
  • Duluth Entertainment & Convention Center
  • Ecumen Lakeshore
  • Range Mental Health Center
  • Minnesota Power / ALLETE
  • City of Duluth

These eight businesses joined the eight employers that participated in the fall 2021 semester of Student Connect: 

  • Family Forum, Inc.
  • Little Mariners Child Care Center
  • Northspan Group, Inc.
  • Altec, Inc.
  • UnitedHealth Group
  • Mary Kraft Staffing
  • Delta Air Lines
  • Art Unlimited

Bridging the Gap Between Students and Employers

The Northland hosts a large population of students who choose to come here for their college years, yet a vast majority leave our area after they graduate. Through Student Connect, students from all 12 colleges, universities, and tech schools in the region can meet other students from the area, learn about local employers, and make connections with leading professionals. 

The Student Connect program is part of Northspan’s Welcoming Community programming with the goal of welcoming new residents or those from historically disadvantaged backgrounds and fostering an inclusive environment to set the stage for community and economic growth. 

“Student Connect is informed by extensive conversations we’ve conducted throughout our region,” said Amber Lewis, Northspan’s Lead for Minnesota fellow and Welcoming Community program coordinator. “Schools, teachers, and employers have expressed a strong need for a program to connect students with entry level jobs and internships. In the face of severe, ongoing workforce shortages, our intention is for Student Connect to fill this gap in our business community.” 

Looking Ahead to Future Semesters

To inform our efforts to shape the next semester of Student Connect, NORTHFORCE conducted a survey to evaluate the needs of area students and job seekers. Takeaways from the survey results included: 

  • 83% of respondents said they would choose to stay in the Northland after graduation because of friends/family
  • 81% of respondents indicated they would choose to leave the Northland after graduation because of employment opportunities (or a lack thereof)

 Respondents also indicated a high level of student interest in the following types of opportunities:

  • On-campus events to connect with local organizations and businesses, possibly in partnership with local chambers of commerce
  • Meet and greet events with leading local professionals
  • Virtual resume reviews

Based on these survey results, future semesters of Student Connect programming might involve components like these. NORTHFORCE is currently evaluating possibilities for the next semester of Student Connect and will share details as plans solidify.

  • Organizations and businesses interested in partnering with NORTHFORCE for future programs can learn more by emailing

For more information please contact: Northspan’s Lead for Minnesota Fellow and Student Connect Program Coordinator Amber Lewis at or 218-481-7737.

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NORTHFORCE connects candidates with employers in the Northland and is powered by Northspan. Learn more at  

Northspan specializes in creative thinking, enterprising strategies, and systematic approaches to help businesses, communities, regions, and organizations prosper in a global economy, working cooperatively with economic and community development partners to leverage resources for measurable, sustainable results. Learn more at

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