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