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Honorees recognized for workforce advocacy, innovation and entrepreneurship

The Dakota-Scott Workforce Development Board (WDB) recently held its Legislative and Employer Awards event. Honorees included:

Mark McAfee Friend of Workforce Development Award

Krista Jech, Lakeville Area Chamber of Commerce president, received the Mark McAfee Friend of Workforce Development Award. 

It is presented to an individual who has championed workforce issues at the local, state or federal level.

Bob Killeen Award

Storm Creek, based in Eagan, received the Bob Killeen Award, which recognizes individuals or companies for their innovative or quality practices.

Storm Creek is a woman-owned apparel company founded upon the pursuit of the finest-quality outerwear and a passion for protecting the planet.

They were founded in Hastings in 2006 and moved their headquarters to Eagan in 2020. They were founded by Teresa Fudenberg and her husband, Doug Jackson.

Business Champion Award

Rihm Family Companies, based in South St. Paul, received the Business Champion Award. It is presented to an outstanding company that uses CareerForce services such as the job fairs, job postings or training.

Rihm Family Companies participated in four virtual hiring events this year, with multiple on-site events pre-COVID. 

The company is a business champion in other ways, including their work with youth. 

They were a site for the educator bus tour in 2019 and they’re also a key partner with an area school district mentoring students, offering internships and providing on-site visits for youth.

Bob Klas Sr. Entrepreneur Award

Silk Road Wellness, of Rosemount, received the Bob Klas Sr. Entrepreneur Award, which recognizes a local entrepreneur success story.

Silk Road Wellness is the only halal-certified natural skincare line made in the United States. 

The business is co-founded and co-owned by Sameem Khan and Annie Qaiser.

They launched the brand to bring awareness to the personal beliefs of the largest overlooked market in the multi-billion-dollar beauty industry.

Willis E. Branning Excellence in Youth Employment Services Award – Dakota County

Jeremy LaBeau, founder of Installed Building Solutions in Farmington, received one of the Willis E. Branning Excellence in Youth Employment Services Awards for Dakota County.

The award recognizes commitment to preparing young people to enter the workforce. The award was sponsored by Dakota Electric.

LaBeau has been a tremendous asset to the construction trades program within Intermediate School District 917 in Rosemount.

For the past three years, he has funded student-built housing projects, providing all the materials and supplies needed to build a 1,600-square-foot home.

He also invested time by having company employees show students how to complete tasks within the housing construction process.

Upon project completion, he donated scholarship funds to support students who wanted to pursue careers in the construction field.

Willis E. Branning Excellence in Youth Employment Services Award – Dakota County

Paul Landwehr, construction trades teacher in Intermediate School District 917, received a Willis E. Branning Excellence in Youth Employment Services Awards for Dakota County.

Landwehr works with students from nine Dakota County school districts teaching construction trades skills and life skills.

Over the years, he has mentored more than 400 students who have entered competitive work, two- and four-year colleges, and the military. 

One of his career highlights is the construction of the Whitetail Woods Regional Park camper cabins in Dakota County.

He was instrumental in the planning, construction and partnership between Dakota County and ISD 917. 

Landwehr helped his students learn about the whole construction trades process from blueprint planning, pre-construction planning and hands-on work to build the cabins.

Willis E. Branning Excellence in Youth Employment Services Award – Scott County

Darren Kermes, superintendent of SouthWest Metro Intermediate District 288, received the Willis E. Branning Excellence in Youth Employment Services Awards for Scott County. This award was sponsored by Valleyfair.

In 2016, he became involved with the Scott County’s Live Learn Earn initiative. The initiative is intended to target the vision that “Scott County residents are stable, connected, educated, and contributing.” 

He helped outline various hurdles within traditional public-school systems and developed ideas of creative partnerships.

As a result, one of the top priorities became finding ways to establish a post-secondary presence in the county that includes better connections between youth and local employers.

In 2020, SouthWest Metro was looking for new space to accommodate their growing school district and obtained a 100,000-square-foot facility in Shakopee.

That space, now called the Dean Lakes Education Center, reflects the goal of creating better connections between youth, education and local businesses.

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