A nonprofit youth training wage for St. Paul

A nonprofit youth training wage for St. Paul

As leaders in the Twin Cities Nonprofit Youth Training programs, we support a thoughtful increase in the employment wage which we believe will promote economic security and an increased quality of life in our communities. We also support the certification of Youth Training Programs that provide a curriculum that includes social/emotional development, community engagement and work ready skills building. There are approximately 50 nonprofit youth programs using the “earn to learn” Youth Training model and who employ 3,000 youth per year in the Twin Cities, about half of them are in St. Paul.

We support the inclusion of a Youth Training Wage as recommended in the Citizens League Report of August 2018.

Importantly, the Study Committee understood that building career competencies, nurturing soft skills, and successfully working towards a career plan simply cannot be accomplished in 90 days. This is why the final report from the Citizens League demonstrates that this was an issue that the Study Committee took extra consideration around. At the end, 77% of the committee members supported 180 day exemption for youth in these unique programs. Additionally, 62% of committee members supported a 365 day exemption.

A St. Paul Nonprofit Training Wage for at least 180 days at 85% of the Prevailing Wage

  • For youth in St. Paul certified nonprofit training programs, we support a distinctive youth training wage. Nonprofit youth training programs commonly serve youth ages 14-24, and focus a significant portion of their paid time using an evidence-based “earn and learn” model. This model integrates work readiness, social-emotional skills, community engagement, and career mentoring. This model works well with youth who are from low-income neighborhoods and who face multiple barriers to employment.
  • Other municipal sources of revenue must be developed to  support a pipeline of talent needed by local industry. Nonprofit “earn and learn” programs will, on average,  see a 40% increase in youth wage costs by 2020. The unintended consequences of these significant cost increases will be a reduction in the number of low-income youth served.
  • The Minneapolis Ordinance that provides for a 90-day training wage for youth training programs at 85% of the prevailing wage is insufficient for long-term training programs. It does not recognize the developmental needs or environmental factors of teens employed in these non-profit youth training programs. St Paul is looking at 180-days and we support that.

It should be noted that youth who are hired as managers or youth workers are paid the prevailing wage.  

These recommendations are from the Citizens League Report of August 2018 (page 23-24) as summarized below:


Summary: The following YSE “earn and learn” cohort supports (1) Citizens League Aug 2018 recommended Scenario 2, a certification process and requirements that can be amended if needed,  (2) an exploration for replacement municipal funds to support training of these youth for local industry and entrepreneurial business ventures.

Call to Action:

Please Call St. Paul City Council Members with smiles, praise and tremendous positivity. Thank you for including the Youth Training Wage for 180 days of training or more in the pending sustainable wage. We believe that we are providing entry-level skills training in the three major areas demanded from industry: social/emotional youth development (confidence, trust and initiative), community engagement (leadership, mentoring and connections) and workforce readiness skills (working in teams, working with a supervisor, and understanding workplace requirements).  We are the foundational organizations to create pipelines of 21st century talent to propel  our regional economic growth.

Note: This statement is also available as a letter.



Joan Linck, Director of Strategic Development

651-292-3203, joan@compas.org


Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa

Melissa Cuff, Director of Development, Marketing

And Communications




Cookie Cart

Matt Halley, Executive Director

(612) 843-1946 or mhalley@cookiecart.org

Dream of Wild Health

Diane Wilson, Executive Director

612-874-4200, diane@dreamofwildhealth.org

Elpis Enterprises

Paul Ramsour, Executive Director

651-644-5080, paul@elpisenterprises.org



Mike Wynne, Executive Director

612-529-9237, wynnem@emerge-mn.org


Keystone Community Services

Randy Treichel, Enterprise Director

(651) 659-0613 Ext. 5, randy@exbike.org  

Keystone Community Services

Chris Ohland, Director of Youth Services

(651) 659-0613 ext.3, cohland@keystoneservices.org

Lakes Center for Youth and Families

Matt Howard, Executive Director

651-464-3685, Matt.Howard@lc4yf.org


McNeely Foundation

Maggie Arzdorf-Schubbe


Zachary Robinson, Executive Director

612-821-6390, zach@spark-y.org


Sundance Family Foundation

Peg Thomas, Executive Director

(612) 822-8580 or info@sundancefamilyfoundation.org

The Sanneh Foundation

Aron Taylor, Camps and Athletic Director

(651) 501-6343 or ataylor@thesannehfoundation.org


Tree Trust

Kim Lawler, Director of Development & Communications

(952) 767-3881 or Kim.lawler@treetrust.org


Urban Arts Academy

Tamar Ghidalia, Executive Director

612-827-1641, tghidalia@urbanartsacademy.org


Urban Boatbuilders

Mark Hosmer, Executive Director

651-644=9224 marc@urbanboatbuilders.org


Urban Roots

Lori Arnold, Executive Director

(651) 228-7073 or larnold@urbanrootsmn.org

Urban Strategies

Elana Dahlberg, Associate Project Manager-

Green Garden Bakery



Wilderness Inquiry

Greg Lais, Executive Director



July’s Wunderkammer: A Recap


July’s Wunderkammer: A Recap

July was a busy month for the Sundance Family Foundation. There were vendors to call, youth to invite, buses to coordinate, and public officials to notify. Once all that was finished, there were posters to make, flyers to print, and one giant hall at the Maplewood Community Center and YMCA to be set up. Why all this commotion? A Wunderkammer, of course!

Before anybody arrives, the space is just a bunch of empty tables waiting to be filled; each is a blank slate where the possibilities are endless. The only rule? Whatever the vendors decide to do with their tables, it must be interactive. The concept of the Wunderkammer comes from the cabinets of interesting curiosities from the Renaissance period in Europe. Therefore, curiosity and exploration are the main priorities.

Before the youth arrive, representatives from Amidon graphics hauled in bright cans of printing ink and a heavy paper jogging machine that aligns paper with vibration. The folks from Dunwoody set up a welding station outside, complete with all the safety gear required to weld on site. McGough Construction brought a wood frame for nail-hammering competitions, while Dayton Rogers brought a specially designed stamping machine to demonstrate their process. There was plenty to get ready.

But once it’s up and running, all the effort that went into planning the Wunderkammer was clearly worth it. The first way to tell is the sound; when walking into the Wunderkammer for the first time, hundreds of visitors were greeted with the sounds of laughter, chatter, and–of course—hammering. Youth encouraged each other as they stacked boxes, worked with small machines, and practiced electrical wiring. They clustered around the photo booth, too, where they got the chance to take group photos themed with and  paired to the Twin Cities tech & training vendors de jour.

Beyond the commotion of encouragement and exploration, youth were asking questions, too. The Wunderkammer is not a typical job fair, it’s the fair job fair. At these events, questions are encouraged and vendor/youth engagement is a must do.  No one expects youth to know about jobs or fields before they’ve arrived. Though all vendors involved brought information about their fields and finding a job or training with their company or post secondary program their primary job was simply to share possibilities. Many of the vendors represented fields that many people aren’t aware of, at least not in our day-to-day lives. We do not necessarily see welding in action, or witness metal stamping, or watch the business cards and pamphlets we use be printed. And yet, each of these industries creates items that become a part of our world.

With the Wunderkammer, Sundance is bridging a knowledge gap by making many of these fascinating career paths more visible, and therefore more possible. We are also bridging the hiring gap, by introducing employers to young, talented workforce- ready youth of color whom manufacturers and industry specialists may not have had the privilege of meeting at previous job fairs.

The Wunderkammer was well-attended by over 200 youth representing YSE organizations, schools, and community groups ; Maplewood’s Mayor, Nora Slawik, and a representative from Senator Tina Smith’s office attended for a walkthrough along with several other community and business representatives Further, the city of Maplewood sent a film crew, and produced a striking video about the event which you can watch below.

A Trip to Design Ready Controls (DRC)

A Trip To Design Ready Controls (DRC)

On a sunny Monday morning, the Sundance team gathered with youth from several YSE organizations at the sunny offices of 800 West Broadway. 800 West Broadway is a nonprofit that offers, among other services, a workforce center that supports and trains job seekers. As the team boarded a bright yellow school bus bound for Brooklyn Park, the group chatted about all the things to consider when looking for a job. How do you apply? What skills should you highlight if interviewed? If you get the position, how much will it pay? And when it comes time to go to work every morning, how will you get there?

This question was on the minds of many as they made the trip outthey had time to consider the distance during the 20 minute bus ride from middle of North Minneapolis.

The destination? Design Ready Controls (DRC), a control panel  and wiring harness manufacturer headquartered in Brooklyn Park. The facilities are large and modern, and the DRC campus includes a main building and a warehouse that sit at the cloverleaf interchange of two highways 169 and 610.

When driving up to DRC, the large campus rises out of the background of prairie-like land, taking up 110,000 square feet on the otherwise flat background. Though DRC recently moved to this large site built in 2015, they’re already filling the space completely and continuing to grow. DRC now has manufacturing facilities across North America in Oklahoma, Oregon, and Virginia.

At their Minnesota offices, the grounds are landscaped minimalistically and are filled with native grasses and  plants that require little upkeep, making them a good choice on both environmental and efficiency levels. This philosophy is carried into the inside. The facilities are paperless, which helps cut down on waste, and for a factory, the space is surprisingly bright, well-organized, and energy efficient.  

For many on the tour, this was their first visit to a manufacturer. Though not all who visited intend to pursue a career in manufacturing, the trip let them see the inside of an expanding field that usually exists only out of both sight and mind. DRC and many manufacturers like them have entry level jobs they’re seeking to fill, but often have trouble finding workers. Enterprise Minnesota’s “The State of Manufacturing” suggests that “The workforce shortage—for skilled and unskilled employees—looms large as a likely impediment to future growth to manufacturers across the board.”

In other words, the jobs exist. It’s finding people to do the work that presents the problem—a problem that companies like DRC are trying to fix before a crisis hits. This is where Sundance and 800 West Broadway came together; it seems an obvious solution to introduce manufacturers in need of workers to people seeking employment.

There is one-size-fits-all solution, of course. Though it makes sense for DRC to be headquartered where there is room to expand, transportation is an issue for some potential workers. Folks on both sides of the worker/employer equation understand that paradox. Still, solutions are on the horizon. Leaders at DRC are in talks with the city of Brooklyn Park about expanding bus service out to their campus.

DRC also makes taking steps towards employment easy. Today’s youth are often highly computer literate, a skill which makes them great candidates for the job, even right out of high school. Further, for anyone with engineering or other technical ambitions, DRC offers paths towards taking college classes.

A Commercial Kitchen for Green Garden Bakery

A Commercial Kitchen for Green Garden Bakery

by Rachel Busse

The story of Green Garden Bakery begins in the kitchen.This may seem an obvious starting place for a group selling muffins and scones, but Green Garden Bakery’s roots are anything but conventional. Rather than in culinary school or even a professional kitchen, the founders of Green Garden Bakery got their start in a cooking class for kids in North Minneapolis’ Heritage Park area.

Heritage Park is a neighborhood, but it’s also a community based around a grouping of apartment buildings and townhomes. The area sits just north of downtown Minneapolis, but it’s tucked behind a knot of highways that make it feel cloistered. At least as far as food goes, this isolated feeling is warranted. Heritage Park is a federally designated food desert. But it’s a packed neighborhood, too, and the area is home to 700 kids who need ways to stay busy and healthy after school and over the summer. Elana Dahlberg, the adviser for Green Garden Bakery and a project manager for the nonprofit Urban Strategies, explains that healthy food access is a particularly hard challenge in the summer. For a lot of kids, she says, dinner means snacks from the vending machines.

So Heritage Park began offering cooking classes as a part of their youth programing. The kids met in a community room and kitchen attached to the main leasing office, and they often practiced their cooking skills with ingredients grown in nearby community gardens. These classes offered one solution to the problem of healthy foods access, but it also increased awareness and excitement about healthy cooking, too.

Photo courtesy of GGB

That excitement grew. Soon, the youth created their first signature dessert: the green tomato cake, which Dahlberg says set the tone and values for their bakery. They sold this dessert for the first time in 2014, before they were officially a business. At the time, they were just kids having a bake sale for a friend in need of support after an accident. Still, from the start, they had a clear vision of what they valued–they wanted to be green in multiple ways. The youth decided it was important that they not only sell healthy desserts, but that they do it in an eco-conscious manner, packaging their treats in compostable packaging decorated with plant-based inks.

Today, they continue to run their business with a strong sense of community-oriented values. GGB uses a third of their profits to pay the staff, a third to invest in their business, and devotes the final third to donating back to their community.

Since their first sale, they’ve added a variety of vegetable-based desserts that incorporate vegetables in fun, creative ways that motivate youth to try new, healthy foods. GGB now serves beet brownies, jalapeno chocolate chip cookies, carrot pumpkin cakes, lavender-blueberry scones, and other youth-inspired creations. In blending gardening, baking, eco-consciousness, leadership, and empowerment, GGB has grown into a successful business that prioritizes engaging more youth as they grow. There are currently 150 youth involved; some are just in kindergarten and they help decorate the compostable packaging that houses the desserts made by older youth.

In their meeting room, the brightly colored packaging is stacked all around to dry on tables. As it is, this area is useful for cooking classes and personal development for the younger kids involved. But they lack a commercial kitchen in their community. For the older ones who bake the treats they sell, the youth must  take a 45 minute bus ride to South Minneapolis to bake in a full commercial kitchen. This impacts the older kids the most, and it has been limiting their capacity to expand.

Limitation has never stopped these young leaders. They received an anonymous gift of $150,000 toward a commercial kitchen which was capped with a gift of $50,000 from the Sundance Foundation. The Green Garden Bakery team has crowdfunded over $17,000, which they will use to buy kitchen appliances and mobile bike carts to help them get around town to make deliveries and to support pop-up sales at events.

The Green Garden Bakery leadership team–all made up of teens connected to the Heritage Park neighborhood–has now met with architects, bidded with contractors, and have submitted plans to the city for approval. They plan to have a finished kitchen by the end of the year. Once the kitchen is complete, they intend to open it up to adults in the community who are interested in starting their own catering or cooking businesses.

As Dahlberg sees it, the success of Green Garden Bakery has to do with the youth taking the lead. “There is no blueprint for what they’re doing,” she says, and their projects, “aren’t developed by adults for kids but instead for kids, by kids.” Beyond the renovation, they’re taking the lead on a variety of other projects, too. The new kitchen will give them more space to freeze ingredients for the winter, but they’re also planning high tunnels and an eventual greenhouse to extend their growing season. They plan to get a passenger van to make transportation easier. On the more distant horizon, the Light Rail will come through the neighborhood by 2021, and the team hopes to have an established storefront by then. Until then, there is plenty to be excited about.  The team is in talks with the culinary director for Minneapolis Public Schools about the possibility of serving their desserts in school lunches.


But at the core of all this excitement and innovation is a commitment to community. As Dahlberg explains, the team works together like a family, seeing each other through hardships of all kinds. The donation from Sundance Family Foundation, then, means a lot to the team, especially because it was made in honor of founder Nancy Jacobs’ mother, Helen. As a way of thanking Sundance Family Foundation, the Green Garden Bakery team created the lemon lavender blueberry scone in commemoration. With their brand new kitchen, Green Garden Bakery surely has many delicious, community-supporting desserts in their future.


Youth Training Wage Update

Youth Training Wage Update

by Peg Thomas

Executive Directors and Leaders of nonprofits and foundations created  Youth Training Wage recommendations to the Citizens League which then brought them to Minneapolis and St. Paul. The pathway to a sustainable wage as currently implemented in Minneapolis has unintended consequences on youth training programs. The problem resulted from putting the duration of the youth programming into the ordinance itself. As a result it can not be easily amended without voting on the entire ordinance.

St. Paul took a different route, and did not define the duration of a youth training program. This one small difference created a workable solution for the scores of youth employers in St. Paul.

Youth workforce training programs are commonly called Youth Social Entrepreneurship programs. They include social and emotional supports to encourage youth personal agency, community engagement to increase social capital, and workforce readiness or even workforce skills training.  Nonprofit youth training programs commonly serve youth ages 14-24 and focus a significant portion of paid time on building job readiness and social-emotional skills, especially in youth who are low income and face multiple barriers to employment. These programs are designed to assist youth as they move from high school to gainful careers. Youth living in neighborhoods with multiple supports may not need these programs as much as youth living in areas that don’t provide these supports.

Directors agree that a thoughtful increase in the employment wages and low or no-cost training will promote economic security for the next generations of youth. The empowered youth will help increase the quality of life in our communities.

Please contact Peg Thomas at peg@sundancefamilyfoundation.org or Matt Halley at matt@cookiecart.org if you want information about achieving a sustainable wage while protecting youth training programs.

Changemaking – A Butterfly Effect

Changemaking – A Butterfly Effect 

by Kailyn Hill

In early February of 2018, the New York Times published an article about the idea of a changemaker. The man who coined the term, Bill Drayton, and started the idea of social entrepreneurship, discusses in the article the importance of a changemaker in our society, and how to instill this idea in the next generation. Drayton’s passions are very similar to the passions of Sundance Family Foundation, and why they started their mission of supporting youth development and strengthening family stability.

Google defines social entrepreneurship as “a person who establishes an enterprise with the aim of solving social problems or effecting social change.” Similarly, in the article Drayton defines a changemaker as someone who “can see the patterns around them, identify the problems in any situation, figure out ways to solve the problem, organize fluid teams, lead collective action and then continually adapt as situations change.” The core of these two ideas is problem solving, and how being a problem solver can open so many doors in someone’s life, and make a positive impact on society and in their own community.

There are no parameters set for who can be a changemaker, it can be anyone who desires to make a difference. This is an important value to Sundance Family Foundation, that there are no limits to who a person can become, no matter their background or upbringing. SFF strives to enable youth with the tools they need to be successful in their life, with a job they enjoy, while earning a good living. They endorse teaching the concept of entrepreneurship to young people, by route of using agile problem solving and entrepreneurial thinking in a job or apprenticeship. Employers want to hire problem-solvers, they want a workforce made up of changemakers, and as Drayton says in the article, “the challenge is to make everyone a changemaker. To do that, you start young.”

Think of the butterfly effect, where a minute change can have exponential impact elsewhere. Now think of a young girl, maybe in elementary school, who is taught to be a changemaker – to problem solve. As she grows up and interacts with countless people in her life, she will be a changemaker in everything she does, maybe teaching others to be changemakers themselves. Children are able to pick things up much more quickly than adults, in everything from language, to math, creativity, etc.

As workforce needs change with the advancement of technology, the approach to adulthood, education, and job training must also change and adapt in a way that will benefit the individual and the society. There are many people in this country that don’t feel equipped to take control of their lives and future, and instilling this confidence in young people is where Sundance Family Foundation truly has their heart. Working towards empowering and educating young people who may feel as though they are at a disadvantage when it comes to obtaining marketable skills, experiencing opportunities and network to advancement, no matter where they are located, whether it be urban, suburban, or rural. If we start teaching the younger generation to take charge of their own life and instill positive values and a yearning for positive impact, those young changemakers may eventually sit in the Oval Office or a senate seat.


The Sisterhood Boutique Celebrates Four Years of Empowering and Celebrating Young Women

The Sisterhood Boutique Celebrates Four Years of Empowering and Celebrating Young Women 

by Kailyn Hill

Four years ago, the Sisterhood Boutique opened its doors to the public and has been changing the lives of young women ever since, enabling them with useful business skills and preparing them for a better, more empowered future. As the Sisterhood Boutique approaches its fourth anniversary and third annual fashion show, their original goal of showing women what they can do on their own resonates even stronger today, as the idea of a sisterhood and the power and beauty of femininity is becoming increasingly prevalent in the media and everyday life.

On the homepage of the boutique’s website, it says, “The Sisterhood Boutique was developed by Kadra Fiqui and other East African women between the ages of 14 and 23 who reside in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis, and participate in the Brian Coyle Center Youth Entrepreneurship Program.” Not only does the boutique benefit the ladies who are a part of managing it, but it also provides affordable and stylish clothing to people in the community. The inventory varies as it is donation based, but regularly carries clothing with enough variety for women of all cultures to find something they love and can afford. Sisterhood recently expanded its inventory to include clothing for men as well.

The Sisterhood Boutique, located on a corner lot at 2200 Riverside Avenue, is a perfect example of the youth social entrepreneurship (YSE) programs that Sundance Family Foundation so passionately supports. Fiqui and her group of business minded East African friends gained inspiration and direction to launch their store after meeting Stella Richardson and other young women who developed a YSE start up clothing store in St. Paul called Express Youthself Clothing, a Keystone Community enterprise. Richardson, who is now part of the management team at Sisterhood Boutique, was instrumental in assisting with the boutique’s launch. Augsburg College School of Business, located across the street from the boutique, continues to provide management support, and Fairview Health Services donated the boutique’s coveted neighborhood corner lot space. Sisterhood Boutique provides opportunities to learn real-world skills regardless of background or upbringing, in the areas of entrepreneurial training, experiential learning, mentoring, job-shadowing, and leadership development activities.

The boutique offers three, 18-month internships that focus on entrepreneurship and business, college and career pathways, and civic engagement and leadership. There is a huge emphasis on one-on-one mentoring and relationship building with each intern. As each internship nears its end, they focus on creating a plan for each intern that incorporates their dreams and what they have learned to set them up for success in a future career. In four years, the boutique has gone from struggling to generate interest, to a waiting list for the internships with over 200 interns that have gone through the program.

Yasameen Sajady, the social enterprise manager at the Sisterhood Boutique said she is most proud of the summers there. They host Step-up internships throughout Minneapolis that allow them to “dive deeper into trainings, conversations and overall intern goals” said Sajady. They also offer sewing in the summer where the interns learn fundamentals and eventually more detailed parts of sewing clothing, in addition to delving more into civic engagement programs and conversations.

Youth social entrepreneurship programs like the one offered at The Sisterhood Boutique can be essential and are consequential for people from less represented communities. Programs in these local organizations not only have a positive impact on their communities they serve, but they also specifically reach out to youth who otherwise may not get to experience work readiness training, community engagement and life-skills development. Providing youth, especially minorities and women, with chances to learn real-life, marketable skills gives them an authentic opportunity to thrive in a good paying  21st century career. Sundance Family Foundation works tirelessly to find and support nonprofits that offer YSE related training programs. Sundance, in partnership with many community organizations, is also busy developing bridges and pipelines between older workforce ready YSE youth and employers eager to employ talented young adults. Busloads of youth and guardians along with YSE program directors are taken on tours to job sites, reverse tours are available for employers to visit YSE organizations in full swing, and experiential, wonder sparking job fairs called Wunderkammers are made available throughout the Twin Cities throughout the year.

The ladies of Sisterhood Boutique have been moving full-steam ahead in preparation for their Fashion Week that will culminate with the third annual fashion show. Preparing for the fashion show on March 20, 2018 at Augsburg  has meant working months in advance with partner organizations to ensure that fashions, accessories, work staff participants, entertainment, social media and marketing are ready to go. Sajady said mid-February “Last week a group of volunteers from the American Refugee Committee and Progressive North came in to paint the store, redesign our layout and offer advice to our interns about jobs, school and life in general.” The boutique then hosted an open house for members of the community to come enjoy some sweet treats and check out the new digs prior to the organized chaos of Fashion Week.

The third annual fashion show will also function as a fundraiser for the first time ever. Sajady said “We are trying to fund a photo studio to support e-commerce and also teach interns about photography, lighting and editing software.” There are events almost every day of Fashion Week leading up to the third annual fashion show. Not only will they be fun, but also affordable. Each event will be supporting great causes and the community. For more up-to-date details be sure to check out the Sisterhood Boutique Facebook page.

Fashion Week: March 12-20, 2018

Monday 3/12, 5-7pm: Pints 4 Pillsbury @ Surly Brewing

Tuesday 3/13, 5-7pm: Breakfast 4 Dinner @ Hi-Lo Diner

Wednesday 3/14, 5-7pm: $5 Spa Day @ Sisterhood Boutique

Thursday 3/15, 4-6pm: Open Mic Night @ Cedar Commons

Friday 3/16, 5-7pm: Alumni Karaoke Night @ Encore Karaoke

Tuesday 3/20, 6-8pm: 3rd Annual Fashion Show @ Augsburg University


January Wunderkammer Event Recap

January Wunderkammer Event Recap 

by Kailyn Hill

On Tuesday, January 30th, employers, training programs,  youth and guardians from the Twin Cities metro gathered in a sunlit room at the Minneapolis Workforce Center to participate in Sundance Family Foundation’s first Wunderkammer event of 2018. These tech and training exploratoriums are much more than an everyday job fair, with authentic and engaging connections and conversations happening all over the room throughout the day. Wunderkammer events are more inclusive and engaging job fairs, with a wider variety of fields represented. Skilled technician vendors are genuinely excited to be there and invite youth, guardians and program directors to experience activities that are representational of their work.

The event was an opportunity for youth to hear about potential jobs, trainings, internships, and apprenticeships that could lead to well-paying jobs in the future without needing to obtain a four-year degree. They learned that many of the jobs offer benefits, including health insurance and 401k plans, individual job security and opportunities for continued training, growth, and advancement. The idea behind a Wunderkammer is simple. It is an authentic and engaging learning experience between a technically trained vendor who is eager to share their knowledge with youth who are exploring opportunities for their future. A Wunderkammer is a curiosity shop, drawing youth into experiences to try out a new career activity, with the hope that this experience might ignite a natural wonder and passion for learning more about training and jobs in that particular field. “I’ve never seen a job fair like this.” said Derrell Mitchell, an intern at the Minneapolis Academy Career Center that runs out of 800 West Broadway, where the Wunderkammer event happened.

There are many well-paying career paths in the Twin Cities that go unnoticed for a myriad of reasons. Sundance is committed to steering the next generation of young adults toward the many options open to them. Wunderkammers are designed to bridge the gap between employers who have solid jobs available  to the talented workforce ready youth in need of living wage employment.  Many of the careers and training programs represented at the January 30th Wunderkammer event offered a specific plan for success for each employee. Colin Owens, a vendor from Emerge said,  “EMERGE offers a broad spectrum of services that include: Workforce Development trainings, Financial Wellness, Job Search and Resume Assistance, and MFIP Services. We partner with Medtronic to provide job opportunities to the communities we serve. In this partnership, we support interested jobseekers by preparing their resume, coaching them on applying for positions, and preparing them for their interview at Medtronic.” The need for new 21st century job careers in industries such as manufacturing, printing, mechatronics, IT and the health fields are high. These careers benefit individuals and families, employers, the community and the changing needs of our world.

Strolling through the January 30th Wunderkammer, hosted by Sundance Family Foundation, Hennepin County and the Minneapolis Workforce Training Center reminded one more of walking down the magical midway of a local county fair, rather than a traditional job fair. It was ablaze with vendors  brimming with excitement at the chance to speak with youth about opportunities available at their places of employment. Instead of pamphlet pushing across their tables, these technicians engaged with inquisitive career seekers through colorful, fun and manipulative activities that were representational of career-related jobs and tasks. Vendor conversations with youth were in-depth and effervescent. Unlike some job fairs, youth were as eager to speak with vendors as vendors were to engage with the youth.

Some of the vendor tables appeared to capture the hearts and interests of youth evoking a creative curiosity. Circuitry systems lit up, origami type boxes were assembled and made into towers displaying the concept of fractals used in engineering, and an impressive looking red and green lighted 3D printer   hummed away for hours. Tree Trust, a conservation enterprise designed for youth development and employment, provided those in attendance the opportunity to drill into boards while hearing about the importance of nature conservation and what it would be like to work in tree planting and conservation.

While youth were chatting with representatives from Andersen Corp about potential jobs in areas ranging from warehouse to window assembly, they were able to run their fingers through the brightly colored materials that go into making an acrylic window. One of the materials resembled hamster pellets, and is actually made from sawdust created at Andersen. Not only does Andersen care about providing employment opportunities, but they also place a large focus on being responsible when it comes to the environment.  Sundance Family Foundation is setting up a tour to the Andersen Corporation in March. Transportation will be made available. Youth, guardians and program directors are invited. Please contact Sundance Family Foundation at info@sundancefamilyfoundation.org or 612.822.8580 for more information. You can also learn more about jobs with Andersen at andersencareers.com.

The consistent hum of energy and conversation in the room reminded one of observing a hive full of alert, busy honey bees, all working together to achieve their honey making goal. In this same way, the vendors were all working together to steer youth toward their impassioned young adult lives. Truly, the room was abuzz with a communal sense of comradery, safety, inclusivity, agency, and wanting to better the community by investing in the lives of the next generation.

One of the most unique parts of Wunderkammer events is that they often feature employers from fields that are typically not thought of when teens and young adults are approaching the working world. There are many industries that are forgotten due to unfounded stereotypes, but the reality is that many jobs in construction, automotives and manufacturing for example, are now technical and skills-based, providing exciting and worthwhile jobs, quite different from the manufacturing floors of days past.

An industry that is plagued with an aging workforce and few young hands to fill their roles is the printing industry, sometimes called graphic communications. Two representatives at the January Wunderkammer event were from Printing Industry Midwest (PIM) and Flexo Tech. While hearing about the industry, youth could look at a digital microscope that showed the details of what printed materials look like, made up entirely of small dots. A tenth grade participant was overheard saying, “This is awesome!” Working with a printing press involves understanding the mechanics and science behind achieving a good print and the training is invaluable in an industry where there is opportunity for quick advancement. The graphic communications industry is high-tech, highly-skilled, and high-paying. Learn more about it at pimw.org

At the end of the day, hundreds of conversations were had, with endless valuable connections made across the industries and with youth in the Twin Cities who will soon be needing to decide on what to do with their lives. The Wunderkammer Tech and Training Exploratoriums are a wonderfully positive experience for young people, guardians, program directors, employers and post secondary training program directors. Wunderkammers give young people and their families a sense that the world is at their feet, and they can achieve the kind of life they desire. They leave employers and post secondary training program directors a positive sense that they are helping to open doors and shape the direction of the next generation.  The next Wunderkammer event will be held by the Vadnais Heights Economic Business Corporation and Sundance Family Foundation at the fun-filled, family-oriented NE Metro Community Business Expo on Sunday, April 29th from 11am-3pm.  It will be held at the Vadnais Heights Sports Complex vhedc.com You won’t want to miss it!


Here is a full list of the vendors from the January 30th Wunderkammer:

Appetite for Change, appetiteforchangemn.org

AIOIC Training Center, aioic.org

Andersen Corp, andersencorporation.com

BIX Produce, bixproduce.com

Boker’s, bokers.com

Century College, century.edu

Electrical Association, electricalassociation.com

Emerge, emerge-mn.org

Flagship Recreation, flagshipplay.com

GAF, gaf.com

Greatbatch Medical, greatbatch.com

Graco, graco.com

HIRED, hired.org

Indrotec, myindrotec.com

Japs-Olson Printing, japsolson.com

KMS Air Duct Cleaning, kmsclean.com

Miratec Systems, myratecsystems.com

Motor Club of America, motorclubamerica.net

Medtronic, medtronic.com

MN Department of Labor and Industry, Youth Division, dli.mn.gov

Printing Industry – Midwest (PIM), pimw.org

South Central College, southcentral.edu

Summit Academy OIC, saoic.org

Tree Trust, treetrust.org

TRIO, eao.org/mntrio

UMN, umn.edu

US Forestry Services, fs.fed.us

Digerati, Inc./Work Fountain, digerati.workfoundation.com

MAICC, miacc.org


An Expanded Youth Training Wage for Minneapolis and St. Paul

This article explores why a Youth Training Wage, as part of the Sustainable Wage ordinance in Minneapolis might be limiting, and how changes to it can be proposed for St. Paul. The Youth Training Wage supports nonprofit Youth Social Entrepreneurship (YSE) programming that integrates social and emotional development, community engagement, workforce readiness, and provides on-ramps to post-secondary career paths that empower youth to both thrive, and become part of our vibrant community. Proposed changes include an increased training period for year round programs, and a less accelerated increase to the prevailing sustainable wage.

An Expanded Youth Training Wage for Minneapolis and St. Paul

By Kailyn Hill

Until recent years, Minnesota had one of the lowest minimum wage rates in the nation. To keep up with the increased cost of living, in August 2016, the Minnesota statewide minimum wage rate was raised to $7.87 for small employers (under 100 employees), and $9.50 for large employers. Minneapolis, in October 2017, approved a Sustainable Wage with accelerated paths to reach $15/hr by 2019 for large employers and 2022 for small employers. The minimum wage in Minneapolis as of January 1, 2018 is $10 for all employers rising to $11.50 for large employers and $10.25 for small employers on July 1, 2018. In January 2018, St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter III said in his inaugural speech that he will also create a Sustainable Wage Ordinance; he asked the St. Paul Foundation to commission a study with the Citizens League to study the unintended consequences of Minneapolis’ Sustainable Wage ordinances.

For those who have ever worked, or currently work in a minimum wage job, raising their pay to $15 sounds like a financial breath of fresh air. While it is of the utmost importance that an individual working full-time can afford to move out of poverty, organizations that focus their training programs to teens living in low-income communities or in communities of color may not be able to continue to provide either the quality of their programing or support the number of youth served. There are about 50 nonprofit youth development programs serving more than 6,000 youth each year in the greater Twin Cities area that pay youth while they receive training and wages. These are not just summer programs, most offer year-round training to youth 14-24.

The current Minneapolis Sustainable Wage ordinance contains a Youth Training Wage amendment, but one that might be restrictive to YSE programs:

Employers participating in a city-approved training or apprenticeship program may pay program placements under 20 years old a minimum wage training rate of no less than 85% of the municipal minimum wage for no more than the initial 90 calendar days of their employment. A list of approved programs will be posted on the City of Minneapolis website.

The training program criteria includes very specific training and data requirements which are similar to the summer curriculum of the Minneapolis STEP-UP Youth programming. This criteria includes a 90-day limit for youth training with a leap at the end of the 90-day training period  from 85% to 100% of the prevailing city wage. These criteria may preclude youth from working in long-term training programs. They also require that all programs conform to the criteria outlined by the City of Minneapolis, and obtain approval and posting on the City’s website.

Nonprofit and philanthropic leaders are seeking an expansion of the Youth Training Wage in the Minneapolis ordinance, and are offering pro-active recommendations to the Citizens League, St. Paul Mayor, and St. Paul Council Members. A Youth Training Wage must indeed be a component of the Sustainable Wage ordinance. Common characteristics of nonprofit youth training programs serving youth ages 14-24 include a focus on building career competencies, nurturing soft skills, social emotional growth, a documented set of attained job skills, and evidence that youth are successfully working towards a career plan. However, holding all nonprofits to a 90-day training period when the entire program is a training program jeopardizes the programming costs and structure. As well, the 85% of the sustainable wage is not financial feasible without infusions of additional charitable dollars. A rise to 100% of the prevailing wages will challenge the existence of these programs.

Cookie Cart, with locations both in Minneapolis and St. Paul, is an example of a YSE non-profit youth training program that will be especially jeopardized by the Youth Training Wage as it is written. Cookie Cart is a non-profit bakery that provides teens with skills and experiences to benefit them as they enter adulthood and the working world. Not only do unskilled youth from low-income communities learn how to make cookies, about managing inventory and aspects of running a business, they have field trips to explore various career opportunities, and they get more connected in their community leading to relationships and references for the future. “About 60% of every youth wage supports youth skills development and exploration of career paths that are completely unrelated to baking and business.” says Executive Director Matt Halley. “The reason we are fine with this is that the program give youth the social and emotional (SEL) skills training that employers in our community want. We are in the business of baking bright futures.” Because programs like Cookie Cart do not function the way traditional businesses do, and focus on  mentoring, skills building, and community learning experiences, the new Youth Training Wage does not serve their needs or mission.

Every $1 increase in hourly wage will cost Cookie Cart an additional $30,000 per year. This is a substantial amount of funding for a non-profit to obtain, and would mean having to make changes, such as cutting the number of teens hired, cutting the amount of hours worked, or increasing the amount of cookie sales, or, shifting its focus from baking futures to bakery sales.

Sundance Family Foundation has both programmatic and grantmaking experience with Youth Social Entrepreneurship (YSE) nonprofits that integrate practices of positive youth development with community engagement and social entrepreneurship to enable mutual transformation of economies, neighborhoods, and individuals. Sundance grants about $400,000 a year to support these nonprofits, coordinates tours, arranges Wunderkammers, and champions innovative supports. As a result of a 2-year collaboration with Wilder Research, 14 YSE nonprofits now have the documentation and evidence-based research necessary to prove that they are model youth training wage programs.

According to the Founder and Executive Director, Nancy Jacobs,  “Sundance is advocating that a Youth Training Wage with a longer training period and a larger differential between the prevailing wage and the youth wage for certain identified programs be implemented both in Minneapolis and in St. Paul to allow these skilled nonprofits to continue guiding young people with technical, social, and emotional skills, and provide them opportunities to attain fulfilling careers with sustainable wages.”


Graco Tour and the Importance of Engagement

Graco Tour and the Importance of Engagement

October 12th, found  Sundance Family Foundation and the Minneapolis North leading youth from North Minneapolis high schools on a tour of Graco20161013_083938(0) Inc. This tour as a part of the  national, “Manufacturing Days”, featured Graco, a neighbor, as one of the over 2000 employers who opened their doors to youth, highlighting the vast array of opportunities found in an industrial vocation. Sponsors included the Minneapolis School District, Workforce Development, The Minnesota Center for Excellence in Manufacturing, and Sundance Family Foundation.

Our tour group began with students from Henry High School. This is the first tour that Sundance has facilitated with Minneapolis Public Schools faculty.

Of the eighteen youth in attendance, five were from after-school youth development programs called Youth Social Entrepreneurships. They included students enrolled in programs with  Appetite for Change, and Elpis Enterprises. Directors Paul Ramsor from Elpis 20161013_090946and Darryl Lindsey from Appetite for Change were on board for the interactive tour, as well. Youth Social Entrepreneurship (YSE) integrate practices of positive youth development with community engagement and social entrepreneurship. Youth learn while they earn, receiving opportunities to grow their knowledge of business management and entrepreneurial thinking,  leadership development, first time job skills, and learning to become leader representatives within their communities.

Our group was greeted with a warm reception from the Graco staff. This was their first effort hosting a tour for Manufacturing Days, and what an incredible job they did!

We were split into three smaller groups, each with a 30-minute tour of the production facility. This part of the tour focused on the products that Graco makes, but more importantly, the personable tour guides drew our focus to all the captivating machinery that was around us. Without exception, the youth were energized and engaged every moment of the tour.

After our stroll through this multi-million dollar robotics wonderland, we were brought to a space that housed a series of six stations with interactive20161013_092151 activities especially developed for the youth.These activities were designed to highlight a particular aspect of manufacturing success. There was a game that demonstrated supply chain thinking; and a station showing the importance of measuring. These spaces were not focused on “teaching” these skills, as much as allowing youth to “try them out.”

20161013_091842This approach is similar to the Sundance Wunderkammer model designed to engage youth at tech and training fairs in a more collaborative, interactive manner than traditional job fairs. The interactive design model is presented with the goal of evoking curiosity and awe, with
the hope that youth will be sparked to envision themselves working in a job or on a career path within a particular company or industry.

After working our way through the stations, our group
20161013_094130was brought to still another space that was set up with representatives from various trade schools and Graco HR staff. This, combined with donuts and sodas, ended the interactive tour on a memorable note for the teens from Minneapolis Public Schools. Graco Inc. accomplished greatness with the youth, conveying a sense of interest, high levels of skill development, innovation and pride, and showed various career paths available for a future employee at Graco. It could be heard by several youth, post tour, as they entered their school bus, “This would be a cool place to work.”

Cool, indeed. 

The Star and Tribune also recorded moments from this tour. You can find that story by following the link HERE.