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Devils Lake student takes advantage of state and local programs for school and work

Two programs, one created by the state and one created locally in Devils Lake, both have the same goal: To provide financial assistance to students getting an education in needed jobs, skilled

Alex Lowery.jpg
Alex Lowery works on a truck at Marketplace Motors. (Adam Kurtz/ Grand Forks Herald)
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Alex Lowery didn’t know what he was going to do after high school, but after encountering the North Dakota Career Builders Scholarship and Loan Repayment program and the 20 by 20 Workforce program, he may have a better idea of what his future holds.

Two programs, one created by the state and one created locally in Devils Lake, both have the same goal: To provide financial assistance to students getting an education in needed jobs, skilled worker jobs and to help keep them in the community. Lowery took advantage of both, after learning about the programs from his Langdon (N.D.) High School guidance counselor and Brad Barth, executive director at the Forward Devils Lake Corp.

“I just heard it was a good idea to go through it and help me out a little bit,” said Lowery, who works part-time at Marketplace Motors at 332 U.S. Highway 2 West in Devils Lake, a job he will come back to after he finishes the Automotive Technology program at Lake Region State College. He signed an agreement to do just that, in fact.

The Career Builders initiative is a public/private program created in 2019 by the state Legislature. It sets aside money for students in a qualified educational program for needed jobs and provides a dollar-for-dollar match for a company willing to sponsor a student in the program; the money goes to pay student loans. The initiative also has a loan repayment aspect for people already out of school.

Marketplace Motors got involved in the program for Lowery, who describes himself as a self-starter.

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“People know me as one of the harder workers from Langdon,” he said.

Getting an employer to put up money for an unknown student can be a risky move, and at first, Chris Devier, service manager at Marketplace, was hesitant.

“Committing to a long-term (work) relationship with someone prior to knowing if they're acting right now is the tough part,” Devier said.

Barth knew he had a good candidate in Lowery after meeting with him.

“A kid from Langdon by the name of Alex called me up and said he wanted to meet,” Barth said. “At the end of the day, I said, 'Hey, you sound like a guy that I want in the program.' ”

Barth created the 20 by 20 Workforce program. It acts as a supplement to the state Career Builders program.

“Ours, really, is an incentive for the business to do it,” Barth said.

Forward Devils Lake is funded by Ramsey County and the city of Devils Lake. Barth’s program gave $3,000 to Marketplace to be matched by the state for Lowery’s student loans. Devier was pleased with the results

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“I couldn't be happier with the progress we're making with him,” he said. “He's always looking for something to do.”

There also was some hesitation on the part of Lowery; he had to sign agreements for Career Builders and Workforce 20 by 20. The agreements obligate Marketplace to provide him with a full-time job when he graduates, but Lowery has to work for the company for at least three years after that. If he doesn’t, he’s on the hook for the full amount of the loans.

“Yeah, it was kind of scary,” Lowery said. “But after I went through it a couple of times and started getting the hang of it, I said yeah, this is a good idea to do.”

The maximum amount that can be given to a student under the Career Builders program is $17,000. Barth said he believes the two programs combined will pay for about 80% of Lowery’s education at Lake Region.

The programs have several rules. Students must attend all of their classes and maintain a satisfactory GPA at the school. Payments cannot exceed the total cost of tuition and fees for a qualifying program. The state won’t make payments without a private sector match. The Career Builders program requires students to live and work in the state.

People interested in the program should contact the college financial aid office before applying for the program, to make sure it qualifies.

Lowery, for his part, is enjoying his time at Lake Region and working at Marketplace.

“I do really like it,” he said. “I’ve always got something to do, which is what I like to do.”

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More information on the Career Builders program, including the list of high-need and emerging jobs, can be found at ndus.edu/career-builders. Information on 20 by 20 can be found by calling Forward Devils Lake at (701) 662-4933.

Marketplace Motors.jpg
Alex Lowery (left) and Chris Devier stand by a truck at Marketplace Motors. (Adam Kurtz/ Grand Forks Herald)

Adam Kurtz is the community editor for the Grand Forks Herald. He covers higher education and other topics in Grand Forks County and the city.

Kurtz joined the Herald in July 2019. He covered business and county government topics before covering higher education and some military topics.

Tips and story ideas are welcome. Get in touch with him at akurtz@gfherald.com, or DM at @ByAdamKurtz.

Desk: 701-780-1110
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