Over one hundred mentors and mentees filled the Great Lakes Aquarium on October 9 at the official kickoff event for a third year of networking through NORTHFORCE’s Mentor Connection program.
For 2018-2019, NORTHFORCE has paired 55 students with established local professionals based in the Twin Ports for seven months of one-on-one career guidance. The aquatic museum buzzed with energy as mentors and mentees broke the ice at Tuesday night’s event, which was sponsored by Gardner Builders and catered by Black Woods.
This is the first year that the NORTHFORCE-coordinated program has expanded across the bridge to Wisconsin. Students from the University of Minnesota Duluth, The College of St. Scholastica, and Lake Superior College were joined by peers from Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College and the University of Wisconsin Superior.
The second Mentor Connection event of the year will take place this November 13. Three more events will follow before graduation in May of 2019, each exploring a topic such as personal branding, team dynamics, and generational differences in the workplace. One of the most popular events of the program in prior years will once again take participants inside the Duluth Chamber of Commerce’s annual holiday party this December.
The members of the class of ’19 belong to a varied cross section of in-demand fields and skilled trades ranging from healthcare and IT to finance, marketing, and more.
“We expose students to the business world to give them a glimpse into the expectations of their future employers here in the Twin Ports,” said Kayla Dietzmann, Mentor Connection Project Manager. “Many employers are feeling like their team is understaffed due to the worker shortage. By being involved in Mentor Connection, they can try out an intern, and potentially even fill a future seat in their office.”
Takeaways from this initial networking opportunity ranged broadly, but several mentees expressed awe at how interconnected the Twin Ports professional community is.
“There is a growing community and everyone is more connected than they realize,” observed one mentee. “There is more that connects us than divides us,” noted another.
Many mentees also appreciated the chance to discuss specifics related to their field of interest right off the bat at this first event. For example, “My mentor described the difference between public accounting and private accounting,” shared one participant.
With two semesters of professional networking and career insights ahead, expectations are high for year three of Mentor Connection, which is funded in part by the Community Opportunity Fund and the Living Legacy Fund of the Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation. Find more information on Mentor Connection at www.northforce.org/individuals-mentor-connection/.