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What’s going on with the workforce efforts

August 9th, 2017 by Amanda Hofland

August chamber eggs and issues panelYou’ve probably heard that our region – and the nation – is experiencing a workforce shortage. You may have also heard that there’s a Career Academy in the works that could help address this issue. At our July Eggs & Issues, we looked at both to get an update of the situation and possible solutions.

Check out this Prairie Business article for more on the Career Academy.

We were joined by John Richman and Tony Grindberg of North Dakota State College of Science; Denise Jonas, Fargo Public Schools; and Perry Lubbers, Trail King.

These folks are looking at a Next Generation Sector Partnerships model (visit nextgensectorpartnerships.com to learn more), a nationwide idea that puts businesses at front of the discussion rather than on the periphery and driven by other organizations trying to solve their problems. “Business and industry has to get engaged in the process and take the lead, take k-12 and the rest of the institutions through what the needs are,” Lubbers said. Richman agreed, adding that with this better understanding of what local companies need, then the educational institutions can tailor their curriculum to teach those skills utilizing current technology.

In North Dakota, the total number of high school graduates has dropped from 12,000 to 7,000 since the mid-80s according to Richman. But, this spring will be the first that we’ll see an increased number of grads since then. At the same time, we’re seeing a rise in tech advancements in all industries and a shortage of people, yet our culture seems to have devalued technicians. “There isn’t one perfect solution to this, but if we collaborate and create partnerships, we can do better,” he said.“We believe the concept of the career academy is going to help all of us. It’s about solving a problem that if we don’t, we’re not going to move the needle on the social-economic position of our region.”

Here’s the video that opened the event.

Next Gen Sector Partnerships from Next Gen Sector Partnerships on Vimeo.

Lubbers spoke about his perspective as an employer that is looking for about 50 people with a certain skill set, but can’t find those people. What he’s learned is that it’s best to focus on young people in the tri-state area, rather than looking around the nation. “We believe that it’s important to get in front of young people and let them know of the opportunities in our region and our state,” he said. “How do we attract young people in the state and then retain them? If you look at the statistics today, of those that graduate, it’s not good. We’ve got the figure out how to keep our most valuable resources. We believe that through this CTE center, we can accomplish a lot of that.”

As the career academy now looks to get off the ground, the next critical step is funding. Grindberg explained that he expects the silent phase to take about six to nine months and include private discussions with businesses to get their commitment to help. A taskforce is also forming to address the operational piece of the project. “It’s going to be easier to raise the capital to build this, but it has to be sustainable,” Richman said. “We do not want to create something that is a burden to the next generation of academic leaders.”

We also had lots of questions from the audience, and we thank all that showed up to discuss this important topic. Stay tuned for even more on this workforce issue.

Check out these Tweets from event attendees!

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