Wyoming Grown seeks to set up former Wyomingites with in-state jobs

CHEYENNE - Gov. Matt Mead has a message for young workers who have left Wyoming: Come home. Mead and other state officials held a news conference Monday to launch "Wyoming Grown," a new state program that seeks to convince former residents to return to Wyoming and find a job here.

"We know we have some great job and career opportunities in Wyoming," Mead said. "And we also know that we've shipped a lot of young people out to other states because they felt like they didn't have a career here in Wyoming."

The push comes as state employment numbers show that about 60 percent of all 18-year-olds working in Wyoming will leave the state within 10 years.

Mead said this has created a labor gap for many industries in the state, ranging from mechanical services to high-tech computer firms.

The outreach effort will encourage the former Wyomingites to visit a website (wyominggrown.org) where they can learn about opportunities in the state. They also can post their resumes on the site.

Joan Evans is the director of the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services. She said once a résumé is posted, state officials will immediately contact that person and even send them a letter from Mead on why they should return.

"And then we'll begin to determine which area of the state is most beneficial for them to work," Evans said. "And we'll work with our local offices, where we have some designated folks who will walk them through the process and determine what is best for their personalized job search and get them going."

The website also lists several facts touting why Wyoming is a good place to live and work, such as the lack of a state income tax and the fact that the average commute is 18 minutes.

But it also seeks to paint Wyoming as a destination that is about more than just the outdoors and cowboys.

"Yep, we have yoga, microbreweries, triathlons and live jam sessions," the site reads. "Were you thinking Wyoming is all ATVs, fly fishing and rodeo? Well, they've gotten even better. But so have the lattes."

The state spent $10,000 to get the program off the ground, Evans said. But other than that, she said it will use existing resources within her department.

Evans added that the state will use social media and work with employers, the University of Wyoming, local chambers of commerce and others to get the word out about the website.

Rather than recruit workers who have never lived in Wyoming, Mead said it's more realistic to convince former residents to move back.

"If you can recruit them back to the state, it's a perfect match because they know Wyoming and all it has to offer," he said.

Mead added that Wyoming Grown is modeled after a similar program in South Dakota, which he said has been successful.

Although the focus is on younger workers, Mead said the state wants to work with former residents regardless of their age or what industry they are in.

But he acknowledged that challenges will remain even if the state can convince these workers to find an in-state job.

That's because many people who work in Wyoming choose to live - and spend much of their disposable income - outside the state. For example, hundreds make the commute up Interstate 25 from Fort Collins, Colorado, to Cheyenne each day.

"We don't know this will address that issue, because they already got the job and know what it's about," he said. "But for the young woman who lives in Kansas and left here eight years ago, she may not be aware ... that we are diversifying our economy with technology or not be aware of the great opportunities in how we are seeking to improve education, and we want to make that known to as many people as possible.

Article taken from the Wyoming Tribune Eagle
By Trevor Brown,

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