Minneapolis-Saint Paul is home to some of the most talented young people in the world. And every year thousands of these hard-working individuals go above and beyond to complete amazing youth employment programs that help prepare students for future success.

In fact, thousands of diverse students have completed programs such as STEP-UP, Right Track, Genesys Works, and The Brand Lab. They make deep connections with employers in the MSP region, meaningfully contribute in the workplace, and begin to build their professional resumes.

However, as these engagements end and students become “alumni” of these amazing programs, connections fray among the programs, employers, and participants. Tens of thousands of program alumni are now in the workforce, seeking employment, and/or pursuing higher education.

These talented young leaders will help change the world, and we hope they’ll do so here in the MSP region. In fact, many MSP-based employers are eager to share some of the career opportunities that might be part of their future. That’s why Make It. MSP. teamed up with the Minneapolis Foundation, the Itasca Project, and a dozen leading youth programs to launch ConnextMSP.


ConnextMSP will help thousands of talented people stay connected to one another, to the programs they participated in, and importantly to MSP area employers. Here’s how it works:

  • Local youth programs like BestPrep, Page Education Foundation, and Wallin Education Partners work to get participants enrolled in the ConnextMSP database. Think of it as an alumni network that helps programs stay connected to people who will go on to succeed and give back as future mentors and volunteers
  • These alumni can stay connected to professional opportunities right here in their hometowns, with exclusive networking groups, events, and access to local employers. Alumni who already helped shape ConnextMSP say they want a different type of relationship with local employers, one that is more authentic and personal, going beyond the traditional recruiting or application process
  • Area employers can continue to engage with talented young people who may have interned at their organizations or done work with other local employers as part of their program curriculum. As these students pursue higher education and enter the workforce full-time, employers can encourage them to pursue extraordinary career pathways right here in MSP

Launched as a result of an Itasca Project task force, ConnextMSP is made possible through the generous investment of the Minneapolis Foundation, Xcel Energy Foundation, and Itasca Project. The Make It. MSP. initiative was uniquely equipped to join this partnership in 2017 by directly engaging local recruiters.

This winter a group of ten local employers will complete a six-month cohort focused on testing and improving employer engagement in the ConnextMSP database. Talent and HR leaders from Best Buy, HealthPartners, Hennepin County, Minnesota Department of Human Services, Ryan Companies, Securian, Thomson Reuters, U.S. Bank, Wells Fargo, and Xcel Energy dove in to contribute to an effort that aligns with their goals of elevating diverse local talent.

Hundreds of alumni have already begun to enroll in ConnextMSP, allowing the cohort to begin testing the platform to recommend how they and other employers will be best equipped to engage and support the effort moving forward. Interested in helping? There are three things you can do right now:

Spread the word to alumni of these partner organiztions: BestPrep, Boys & Girls Club of the Twin Cities, The Brand Lab, College Possible, Genesys Works, Junior Achievement, Page Education Foundation, Project Success, Right Track, STEP-UP, Urban Scholars, and Wallin Education Partners. Individuals who completed a youth employment program with these organizations are eligible to sign up here at ConnextMSP.org to connect with peers and employers.

Contact the ConnextMSP team to learn how your organization can engage as an employer in 2018 and beyond. Following the completion of our employer cohort, we plan to take the recommendations of these 10 local organizations and begin building pathways for meaningful employer engagement. Click here to contact the team.

Help elevate diverse local talent! School districts and youth programs throughout the MSP region are working to prepare tens of thousands of young people to lead tomorrow’s MSP. By becoming a volunteer, mentor, donor, or an organizational participant, you’re helping to further the overall mission of ConnextMSP.

Matt Lewis is the Director of Make It. MSP. at GREATER MSP, the Minneapolis-Saint Paul Regional Economic Development Partnership. In this role he works with dozens of public, private, and institutional partners to better attract and retain top talent. Matt leads the ConnextMSP employer cohort in partnership with ConnextMSP Launch Director LeAnn Dow as well as leaders at the Minneapolis Foundation, Itasca Project, and Xcel Energy.
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