Education Leads to New Career for Takoda Graduate

Cory, a proud member of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, knew he needed a change. He was working in a low-paying job that was starting to take a physical toll on his body. He wanted a job that had financial security and opportunities for advancement and one that was less physically straining. With the guidance of a caseworker at a Minnesota WorkForce Center, Cory determined that further education was his solution.

Last fall, Cory enrolled in the Takoda Institute’s Computer Support training program. During the program, he acquired the foundational skills and knowledge needed to enter a job in tech support. He found the atmosphere at Takoda to be serious, but also one that didn’t create unnecessary stress for students. Grants and scholarships allowed Cory to complete the program free from the burden of student debt and even provided some cushion for living expenses. He was also able to gain valuable hands-on work experience in his field by completing an internship.

In just nine months, Cory completed training and was ready to enter the tech workforce. He strived for excellence and was determined to stand out amongst the rest, especially to prospective employers. So, when the opportunity for employment presented itself, Cory was eager and ready. A staffing firm came to the school looking for tech workers to fill open positions. Takoda staff referred Cory for employment and, because he already had practical experience from his internship, he seamlessly transitioned into employment. He is grateful to his Takoda career counselor whose skills and dedication contributed to his gaining employment. “His help is a major reason I got hired so quickly after I completed the program. The things David taught me will continue to serve me well into the future.”

Cory is now working as a Technical Support Technician and is charged with moving things along as efficiently as possible in a fast-growing technical support department. He has increased his earnings by 40% and offers this advice to incoming students, “be efficient, productive, and constant in your awareness of what you set out to achieve.” Cory is excited to excel in his position and looks forward to advancing in his career.

 The Takoda Institute is enrolling now for its next quarter. Graduates will gain hands-on experience and vocational knowledge in the fields of health information, computer support, or administrative support. Students are also provided with a career counselor who will help them develop a professional profile, gain work experience, and connect to employment in their field of study. To learn more, follow this link.

If you are an alumnus of American Indian OIC’s programming and would like to share your story of success, contact Lucie at 952.977.9303.

Legislative Alert

A critical meeting is taking place on Friday which will help determine how the Minnesota legislature addresses the disparities faced by communities of color in our state. This meeting is an important first step toward resolving damaging community issues and American Indian OIC is encouraged by this action. We are hopeful that a path to equity is possible for all Minnesotans and encourage community members and allies to remind our decision makers that American Indians in the state continue to face considerable disparities. Notably:

  • Minnesota’s Native American households have an annual median income of $32,000. This is 48% less than the state’s overall median household income of $61,500.
  • The unemployment rate for the American Indian population of Minnesota is 10.8% and 40.8% of the population is considered to be ‘not in the labor force,’ meaning that nearly 52% of working-age American Indian Minnesotans are jobless.

American Indian OIC feels that issues facing our community are often overlooked by our immediate power structure and we hope that you will use your voice to make our community’s needs heard. We encourage you to attend the meeting on Friday to share your experiences or to simply be present to lend your support to the Native community and all communities of color in our state.

Legislative Working Group on Disparities & Opportunities
Friday, January 15, 2016
100 Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard
Room 200
St. Paul, MN 55155
Public testimony is permitted

If you cannot attend Friday’s meeting, please contact your legislators and let them know that American Indians and other communities of color in Minnesota face many disparities and we need their advocacy and support.

Learn more about employment and economic disparities faced by Natives in Minnesota here.

Dream Catcher

1 in 2 American Indians Living in Minnesota are Jobless

In September of 2015, a federal report was released examining the median household income for various racial groups in Minnesota – essentially establishing an average baseline of how much money families are earning. The report indicated that the median household income for African-Americans in Minnesota had contracted – or shrunk – nearly 3% from 2013 to 2014. This decrease occurred despite highly publicized accounts touting an expanding state economy. The African-American community was justifiably outraged and their local leadership condemned the Governor and the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) for being ineffectual in their attempts to address the needs of their community. In response to this very real and very serious issue, Governor Dayton instructed DEED to form a new office to address this problem and last month the Office of Career and Business Opportunity was created. Additionally, yesterday Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk suggested that if a special session were held, the legislature should consider approving measures that “focus on challenges facing the black community in Minnesota.”

However, this same report – as released by the major local media outlets – contained zero (0) information about the American Indian families of Minnesota. For all intents and purposes, it appeared that once again we remained completely invisible to the power structures of this state, as well as to the federal government.

As a leader in education and workforce development, the American Indian OIC felt compelled to respond. How is our community fairing within this seemingly prosperous state economy – one that boasts a current unemployment rate of 3.7%?  If the numbers were bad, what type of response would the Governor or DEED have generated on behalf of the American Indian community? Would they choose to invest new resources for our people? Would the Governor have suggested the creation of an entirely new state government office on our behalf as well?

To answer these questions, the AIOIC approached DEED’s Commissioner, Katie Clark Sieben, and its Labor Market Information Director, Steve Hine, for help finding the data. Mr. Hine dug deeper into the very same US Census Bureau report that initiated the creation of the new Office of Career and Business Opportunity. He was able to find economic information pertaining to our American Indian community and the following was revealed:

  • The median household income for American Indian families in the state of Minnesota is $32,000. (Incidentally, the established Federal Poverty Line is a household income of $24,250 for a family of four.)
  • The unemployment rate for the American Indian population of Minnesota is 10.8%- nearly three times that of Minnesota’s overall unemployment rate.
  • 40.8% of our population is considered to be “not in the labor force” – and therefore not tabulated in the employment data because they are jobless and are not currently looking for work.

According to this data, 10% of our population is officially considered unemployed, while another 40% of our working-age people are not even in the labor force. Essentially 1 in 2 American Indians in the state of Minnesota are jobless. 

If these numbers are indeed accurate, then how can this be acceptable by our state officials?  Secondly, and no less important, where is the data being collected by our state offices – namely DEED – either to support or contradict these bleak indicators? Why are we all still dependent upon a federal report that lacks nuance and a proper understanding of our state’s population groups? Doesn’t DEED hold a responsibility to track, tabulate, and provide ongoing labor market data for all population groups within Minnesota? (To date, the AIOIC has not received any answers to these specific questions.)

Through the discussions that were held between the AIOIC, Commissioner Clark Sieben, and Mr. Hine, DEED has indicated that they too are equally troubled by the current lack of information regarding our people. “While the emphasis in the media has been on black median income, there are a number of sources that highlight Minnesota’s Native population including the American Community Survey census data released last month,” said Hine. “The state recognizes that significant employment disparities exist and that previous efforts to address them haven’t been enough – this will be the focus of DEED’s new Office of Career and Business Opportunity, which will continue to work with the AIOIC and numerous other organizations that provide support for populations of color in Minnesota.”

Furthermore, the data point noting that 40.8% of our people are “not in the workforce” was identified as a problematic statistic. This point refers to those individuals in our community who do not have jobs and are not actively looking for one. The reasons for why they are not looking can vary. Some of these people might be what is referred to as “discouraged workers” who do not believe there are meaningful jobs to be found and have essentially dropped out of the labor pool. This number might also include American Indian adults who are financially independent and simply do not need a job at this time. However, with an annual median household income of just $32,000, it would seem this portion of our community is likely very small. With regards to the “not in the workforce” data point, DEED could not offer any clarification, nor any data of their own.

So, without any further information or any data to support or debunk these bleak statistics presented by the federal report – the sickly assertion remains that 1 in 2 of our American Indian people in the state of Minnesota are jobless. Certainly, until either clarified or disproven such statistics are more than “insignificant” for our people, suggesting something unhealthy is at work within our state’s economy.

What the AIOIC proposes now is action.  First, action is required of our people to demand more information – more data – regarding the economic indicators for American Indians in Minnesota. This data must to be collected both at the state level as well as by professionals operating within our own community. Only after we have obtained this information can we come to a clear and objective understanding regarding the true economic health of our people. A doctor would not treat a patient without first finding out the symptoms or learning as to how the illness has manifested within the body. Until such actions are taken, the sickness will remain unchecked within our community and will be able to spread itself at will – thus perpetually compromising our people’s ability to thrive …

Action is absolutely required on the part of the Governor and DEED to work in concert with the American Indian community and our community-based organizations to begin to officially identify, tabulate, and address the economic disparities currently affecting our people. Despite the current lack of quantifiable data, we know these disparities are real and continue to wield great debilitating power– causing much suffering for our people in real-time. We are reminded daily of these economic maladies for our community members continue to come through our doors at the American Indian OIC seeking effective treatment through our offered services.  What is now needed is the data to corroborate the experiences of our people and our front-line service providers, to strategically guide their curative work going forward, and to bring all available resources to bear commensurate with properly remedying the generated diagnosis.

Whoever controls the data controls the story of our people. Whoever controls the story dictates the future actions that can and will be taken on our behalf. Most importantly, whoever controls the story often dictates how many resources will actually reach the people. This very point was recently reaffirmed through the creation of the Office of Business and Career Opportunity as a response to a single digit contraction of African-American household income. The same type of motivation and commitment is required for the American Indian people too.

We have come upon the one year anniversary of the AIOIC’s “Statistically Insignificant” blog of 2014 – whereupon its release generated a groundswell of grass-roots engagement – your engagement – that caught the attention of our state officials. It appears that we are now emerging from the shadows of being dismissed as being not important enough to research and collect data for, but in light of recent events, we as a community have still so much further to go.

It is time to stand up and be counted! It is time to demand action by your state government to address our needs the same as they would for any other population here in Minnesota! We must get the data so that we can control our own story! Therefore it is time to begin an accurate and ongoing gathering of information about our American Indian community so we can truly learn where we are as a people, properly analyze our economic health in real-time, and validate our struggles to bring about meaningful action and the necessary resources to effectively heal the disease of chronic economic disparity.

Call or email Governor Dayton (651-201-3400); call or email Commissioner Clark Sieben (651-259-7114); and call or email Senator Bakk (651-296-8881). Let them know we need real-time and accurate data for and about our people. Let them know our community needs infusions of resources now to help alleviate the protracted economic ailments that continue to compromise the vitality of our people and our state. Let them know as a representative of the First Nations of this land that you refuse to remain invisible any longer – that you indeed count for something!

If you do not use your voice, you will never be heard. If you do not stand up to be counted, you will forever remain invisible. Rise, speak, demand.  The future belongs to us – but only if we positively assert that it does so. It is beyond time we claim our rightful place as leaders in this state – leaders who demonstrate how to generate action amongst their own. Leaders who compel governments to acquiesce to the will of their constituents. Leaders who are capable of healing the sickness of their own, and in so doing can also exemplify to others how they too can do the same.

We look forward to hearing from a rising chorus of voices singing forth songs inspired by our elders … We are hereWe remain . . . We will thrive . . . We will lead

Call or email and demand that all Minnesotans deserve current and accurate data about their communities. Call or email your demand that all Minnesotans need to be counted.

For all of our non-Indigenous supporters, those who sympathize and support the American Indian people of Minnesota, and to all those ardent supporters of the AIOIC specifically- join us. Your support, your voice, will add powerful harmonies to our collective song. Join us to support our American Indian community. Join us in this call for action if you support an economy that works on behalf of all Minnesotans.


Second Chance Pays off for Computer Support Student

Chris enrolled in college following his high school graduation, and – like many young people – perhaps did not value higher education as strongly as he should have. Within a few months of starting his college program, he dropped out.

For the next decade Chris struggled to find his way. He bounced from job to job and simply could not get ahead. After finding himself again unemployed in early 2014, Chris decided to make a change. He learned of the Computer Support Specialist training program offered at the American Indian OIC’s Takoda Institute of Higher Education. Its curriculum aligned with his personal interests and its tuition was fully covered by Pell grants and scholarships – meaning he would graduate free from the burden of student loan debt.

In just nine months, Chris completed the Computer Support Specialist program and obtained multiple industry recognized Information Technology credentials. While at the Takoda Institute, Chris worked with a career counselor to secure employment in his field. His counselor connected him with an internship, helped him develop a dynamic résumé, and advocated to employers on his behalf.

We are happy to report that Chris is now working full-time as an IT service agent with the City of Minneapolis. For the first time in his life he feels like he has a career and not just another job without long-term prospects. Chris wants to grow in his profession and eventually sees himself working in network security. He is appreciative of the American Indian OIC and its Takoda Institute for its career focus and for the consistent and supportive environment he experienced here.

If you’ve participated in an American Indian OIC program and would like to share your success with our readers, contact Amber White Bear at 612.341.3358, x176

Now Enrolling for Winter Quarter

Enrollment Period Extended through December 31

American Indian OIC’s accredited career training school, the Takoda Institute of Higher Education, is now enrolling for its Winter Quarter.

The Takoda Institute offers accredited training in the fields of business, healthcare, and information technology. Takoda graduates are prepared to work as administrative professionals, human services technicians, health information specialists, and computer support specialists. According to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, these occupations are in the top 12% most in-demand in the Twin Cities metro and their annual median wages range from $31,000 for human services technicians to $52,000 for computer support specialists. Career counselors provide each student with individualized career support as they work to enter their field of study. The school’s professional development courses in IT Information Library and Project Management also start on November 30.

No program lasts longer than nine months and Pell grants fully cover tuition, books, and fees for qualifying students. Scholarships are also available. Visit the Takoda Institute’s website to learn more.

Two Certificates, One Great Career

Antonitte came to American Indian OIC’s Takoda Institute in 2012. She was a single mother looking to prove to herself that any situation could be made better, so she enrolled in the vocational school’s nine-month Administrative Assistant training program. While enrolled, Antonitte learned applicable work skills like project management, keyboarding, and database management and gained hands-on field experience by completing an internship with the Minnesota Visiting Nurse Agency.

After her graduation, Antonitte obtained a position as a human resources assistant. She worked in that position for a year before she realized that she missed working in the healthcare environment that she was exposed to during her Takoda Institute internship. Antonitte then came back to the school to complete Takoda’s six-month Health Information training. She completed the program on a Vape/Gorney/Bellecourt scholarship, which is a newly established scholarship that allows any student of Native descent to attend the Takoda Institute at no out-of-pocket costs.

Armed with considerable classroom and on-the-job training, Antonitte was now well-prepared to make a better life for her daughter and herself. As she was wrapping up the Health Information training, she worked diligently with her Takoda Institute career counselor to obtain employment in her field. Her counselor helped her develop her cover letter and resume and helped her search for job opportunities. Just a few weeks after her graduation, Takoda’s career services team referred her to an open position at a nearby clinic. She was hired and now works full-time for Indian Health Board as a health program support technician. She assists their Diabetes Management program where she helps cook healthy meals and performs administrative work like preparing materials for patients. She appreciates the opportunity to help the community navigate the obstacles and barriers that life presents.

Antonitte speaks highly of her time at American Indian OIC’s Takoda Institute. She built long-lasting friendships, learned life skills, enjoyed the small classroom size, and especially appreciated the easy commute. She credits her instructors for her success because they were flexible and willing to help her balance her professional life as a student and her personal life as a mother. Antonitte encourages current and future students to “try your best and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Make friends with your cohort, instructors, and the AIOIC staff- they are always there to help.”

If you have benefited from American Indian OIC’s programs and would like to share your story, contact Amber White Bear at 612.341.3358, x176.

Treasure Island Employment Fair

Thursday, August 6
American Indian OIC
1845 East Franklin Avenue, Minneapolis

Staff from Treasure Island Resort & Casino will be at American Indian OIC to present information on their employment opportunities. Current openings include positions in Food and Beverage, Gaming, Finance, Hotel Operations, Security and Surveillance, and Casino Floor. Generous benefits for full time employees include medical coverage, clinic access, a retirement match, short and long term disability, paid time off, and discounts, awards, and giveaways.

Interested parties should apply online before August 6 and be prepared to interview at the employment fair. Click here to view current openings and apply online. Individuals who do not pre-apply are still welcomed to attend the employment fair.

If enough candidates from the area are hired, a shuttle may be provided for employee transportation.

For questions or more information, contact Brook Gilles at Treasure Island at 651.385.2527 or Amber White Bear at American Indian OIC at 612.341.3358.

AIOIC Graduate Advances in her Career


Angel Photo ii

Angel DeLeon came to American Indian OIC in 2000. She was a single parent with a plan to complete the Administrative Assistant program and pursue better employment opportunities. And she did just that. In March of 2001, Angel graduated with both an Administrative Assistant and Financial Services certificate. She was hired at TCF Bank where she worked for two years and achieved much success, including working her way up to Assistant Branch Manager.

After taking a few years off to raise her daughter, Angel realized she wanted to pursue further education and enrolled at the Minnesota School of Business. In just 33 months and while working full-time, Angel earned her Bachelor of Science Degree in accounting. She is now working for IWCO Direct in Chanhassen, Minnesota, and recently received IWCO’s President’s Award for Personal Commitment, which also came with a pay raise and bonus.

Angel thanks her mother for showing her the importance of a great work ethic and dedication to pursuing her goals and dreams; she appreciates her instructors who were knowledgeable, patient, and understanding of her needs as a student; and is grateful to her children for being patient with her busy school and work schedule for so many years. Angel’s future plans include attending the University of Minnesota to obtain a Master’s Degree.

If you are an American Indian OIC client or graduate and would like to share an update with our readers, please contact Amber White Bear at 612.341.3358, x176

AIOIC Serves Clients From Over 35 Tribal Nations

American Indian OIC strives to make the Native American community stronger and richer. Though the agency is located in Minneapolis, many American Indian individuals from throughout Indian Country have utilized its education and employment services. During 2013 and 2014, American Indian OIC’s clients represented three dozen tribal nations from ten different US states. Click through the map below for more detailed information.


Marking Progress & Affirming Goals

Although the world just moved into 2015, it is mid business year for the American Indian OIC. With the first half of the calendar over, AIOIC has already accomplished a number of initiatives. As we finished out 2014, our education and training programs saw 871 people. In addition, the jobs gained from our employment programs finished at 421. Despite our success, many of our programs continue to expand. We have been working since October to offer employment, mentorship, and post-secondary exploration through our new Native Youth Works program. In addition, the Takoda Institute of Higher Education (A Division of American Indian OIC) has introduced new advanced training courses in programming and web development. Our President and CEO has continued to serve in a leadership capacity within both the Metropolitan Urban Indian Directorate Group (aka MUID Group) and the Emerging Workforce Coalition (aka EWC), which is a coalition comprised of community-based organizations representing the workforce development needs of minority and immigrant populations in Minnesota.

As we look to the remainder of this year, we have a number of additional objectives to complete. Over the next few months, we intend to . . .

1. Aggressively expand our Adult Basic Education / GED program so that it will serve as an educational bridge to our accredited post-secondary offerings. Potential coursework will include basic computer skills, keyboarding, advanced mathematics, advanced literacy, and the potential to audit some of Takoda Institute of Higher Education courses to prepare students for immediate transition, or for matriculation at an outside college.

2. Introduce additional post-secondary courses within the fields of information technology, internet and media marketing, and web development for the Takoda Institute of Higher Education. Based on input provided by our employer partners such as Wells Fargo, Impact/Smith Micro Technologies, Crestview Communities, George Konik Associates, and MNIT (Information Technology for Minnesota Government) – along with the information generated from our own internal employment research – we believe that the skill sets present within these new offerings will further help graduates gain the attention of area employers and procure meaningful employment – particularly as many companies within the state of Minnesota face retirements of up to 30% of its staff over the next several years.

3. Develop and implement IT coding or programming language courses within our high school – Takoda Prep. AIOIC leadership has been in contact with the national founder of the organization #YesWeCode – a California-based nonprofit committed to reducing the economic gaps for students of color by introducing higher level skill sets within the K-12 framework. Although this program will take a bit longer to realize, AIOIC does have access to a number of instructors on site who have experience in such languages such as HTML, JAVA, and SQL – that can be directly applied to the development of our own curriculum initiatives in the near term. Our hope is to move ahead and connect students in Takoda Prep with these skills that they can take with them to college, training, or employment.

4. Continue on with our exploration towards the potential for replicating AIOIC’s Takoda Prep High School and Adult Basic Education / GED model in St. Paul and outstate Minnesota. Internal and external evaluations have shown that our systems are working to help American Indians and other minority groups sustain high levels of engagement and attendance, as well as to complete these programs by obtaining either their high school diploma or obtain their GED. Our intention is to bring these same resources to people living beyond the city limits of Minneapolis as a means of further empowering our community as a whole within the state.

5. Further direct and strengthen the existing partnerships present within the MUID Group. By streamlining services and creating strong committees within the realms of public safety, health & wellness, family wellness & preservation, employment & economic development, and education, we will continue to re-engage active participation within our community, as well as direct collective efforts on behalf of our community with relevant stakeholders within both the private and public sectors. Ultimately, our goal is to bring more resources to our community and keep Indian issues first and foremost in the minds of foundations, as well as policy makers and government officials at the city, county, state, and federal levels through collective action.

6. We will continue to expand the work of AIOIC’s Takoda Group Staffing by creating a stronger and more accessible service delivery system to unemployed individuals and connecting more broadly with area employers.

While this remains an ambitious set of objectives for our organization to pursue during the remainder of this year, we are confident that we will not only achieve these objectives, but will also be able to expand upon their conceptions in a manner that best suits the needs of our participants and our community.