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The pandemic brought a shift in need and demand for all Americans, and subsequently the consumer as well. With retail foot traffic ground to a halt but our health at the forefront, the labor market called for more pharmacists than sales associates at the mall. With travel stopped, the labor market called for more customer service personnel at online and delivery services than hotel receptionists.

Getting the American workforce into jobs of high demand has long been an endeavor best pursued when government and private enterprise work together — for example, partnerships like President Trump’s Pledge to America’s Workers, which developed a national strategy during the pandemic for training and retraining the workers needed across high-demand industries. Similarly during the pandemic, companies like CVS, Amazon, Fidelity Investments, Walgreens, and others included in a recent Wall Street Journal report formed hiring partnerships with dozens of other U.S. employers as the former raced to fill open positions and searched in increasingly displaced job markets such as retail and hospitality.

The pandemic forced tens of thousands of Americans to reconfigure their time and skills in order to support themselves and their families — picking up side jobs, working longer hours, or giving up their jobs currently on hold for ones that were still operating. This is not easy — but the spirit of resilience in many American workers in the face of challenges and the unknown should be celebrated.

Over the summer, we spoke to a woman named Patti who embodied that very resiliency and refusal to give up not just for herself, but her fellow employees. Patti works at Duluth Pack, a manufacturing company in Duluth, Minnesota, and has for nearly 20 years.

As a skilled sewer, Patti was a lead trainer, where she trained and mentored new production employees and trained current sewers in new products. When the pandemic hit, Duluth Pack, whose products include apparel, backpacks, and outdoor gear, was deemed nonessential. But not for long, thanks in part to Patti.

“I was immediately called back to work to assist [the company] in pivoting the business to building medical PPE … I helped design, train, and lead the production team in the manufacturing of over 30,000 Made in the USA reusable grade 2 healthcare gowns,” Patti told us.

More importantly, Patti said, her work helped Duluth Pack become an essential business, therefore bringing back 100% of her production workers during the pandemic. The company was even able to hire more production workers to meet the PPE manufacturing needs.

“I have the utmost respect for Duluth Pack and all of our wonderful employees,” Patti said at the time, and we do too for all those who appreciate the value of hard work and the importance of being adaptable in challenging times.

 

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