Colleges of Northeast (Minnesota) Higher Education District (NHED) and UMFO to bring workforce training to the Taconite Tax Assistance Area

Troy Bakewell, Indie Gear Solutions, teaches students during an “Introduction to Camera” earlier this year.

Duluth, MN May 12, 2021   Advanced Minnesota, the Customized Training and Continuing Education arm of the Northeast Higher Education District (NHED) colleges (as well as Bemidji State University and Northwest Technical College), and Upper Midwest Film Office (UMFO) have been awarded a Workforce Development grant by the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation (IRRR) to develop job training opportunities for individuals to obtain the skills needed to work in the Film and TV production industry in NE Minnesota.  

Advanced Minnesota will partner with UMFO to plan and execute these workshops that bring technical skills to residents in and around the community. Shari Marshik, UMFO Executive Director notes, “After the announcement of the St Louis County Production Incentive, UMFO has received over 30 serious inquiries from producers, wanting to spend millions of dollars in the region.   The single biggest hurdle we have in landing these projects here is the lack of workforce.   We have some talented and trained crew, but not enough to meet demand and thus we are missing out on enormous economic opportunity for the Iron Range.   This grant provides the essential next step to offering workforce programs and the planning for even more robust, quality programming in the future.” 

 “The production industry brings in new money to our region and gives locals a new career pathway that allows them to live and be creative right here in the taconite district.”  Says Riki McManus – Chief Production Officer.

In the next 8 weeks, Advanced Minnesota plans to offer at least 5 workshops at Hibbing Community College via their partnership with the Upper Midwest Film Office.  The office is working toward gearing up for Fall projects (and potentially 1-2 summer projects).  Workshops offer introductory skills training that allow participants to be considered for internships on upcoming projects.  In the end of June, a 3 day “intensive” is being planned to give first-hand experience.  “This helps to solve the problem of “we can’t hire without experience, but you can’t get experience without hiring” says McManus.

In addition, a nice side benefit to these workshops is allowing teams to connect.   “Productions rely on crew that can work together easily and readily.  Early on in the process, we realized that there was no easy way for Northland crew to connect. This is one way to connect.  When the next production is hiring, they say, “Hey – I know that person, they were in this workshop and let’s see if they can work with us”.

Trent Janezich, Executive Director of Advanced Minnesota said, “Diversifying our regional economy is critical, and the TV and Film production industry is a ripe opportunity and one that has eluded us for years.  I can’t thank UMFO and IRRR enough for their engagement in building a community of teachers and learners in this space.  Our collective work and the tax incentives that are in place will allow our region to be more attractive for production opportunities over the long-term”.  

About the Upper Midwest Film Office:

In 1995 UMFO was founded as a public private partnership under the Northspan group with support from IRRRB, DEED and others.  In 2021, with support from St. Louis County, the independent Upper Midwest Film office was established as a non-profit corporation created to advance the creative economy by connecting storytellers to workforce.   The office connects financing, crew, services and locations with production projects as well as develops workforce and promotes the region an promotes the region as a home for independent production across the world.

Workshop information can be found at  Contact for more info.