'Selling the whole package': Job service director says Grand Forks County has more than 1,500 job openings

North Dakota has 15,786 job openings, 1,521 of which are in Grand Forks County

Patrick Bertagnolli, executive director of Job Service North Dakota, speaks about the state of North Dakota's workforce before the Greater Grand Forks Human Resource Association on Thursday, May 18.
Joe Banish/Grand Forks Herald

GRAND FORKS — In light of difficulties filling the thousands of job openings in North Dakota, Patrick Bertagnolii, executive director of Job Service North Dakota, spoke of the need to “sell the whole package” of what living in the state entails, during an address to the Greater Grand Forks Human Resource Association on Thursday.

A native of Montana, Bertagnolli — who was appointed to his role by Gov. Doug Burgum in February 2022 — previously worked as a driver and multi-state operations manager with the United Parcel Service (UPS) before moving to North Dakota. He said a strong feeling of community during a lunch with a friend in Watford City convinced him to move to North Dakota to take a job in the oil industry.

“As we were leaving the restaurant, the owners chased me down and said ‘Pat, it was wonderful to meet you, I hope you consider joining our community,’” he said. “I tell people to this day that’s what got me. That community made me feel welcome, important and needed.”

Following his career in the energy industry, Bertagnolli was appointed by former Gov. Jack Dalrymple to serve on the state’s Workforce Development Council, a position he held for eight years until his appointment to executive director by Burgum.

“I’ve hired thousands of people from across the nation who have come to North Dakota, and found the best version of themselves,” he said. “It’s been exhilarating enough for me that I want to go to the state level, and share my message with the entire world. It’s not just selling the job and company anymore, we have to sell the whole package — people are looking for a great quality of life.”


Despite these positive aspects, Bertagnolli said North Dakota is suffering from a lack of employees to fill its many job openings. According to Bertagnolli, the state has 15,786 open jobs — 1,521 of which are in Grand Forks County, with 66% of those jobs not requiring a four-year degree.

Bertagnolli said connecting youth to their communities is essential to retaining a skilled workforce for North Dakota.

“We as a society have to find a way to align our communities, schools and industries,” he said. “I want all graduating high schoolers to have an opportunity to meet industry so we can provide encouragement. I want us to stay connected to them so we’re more intentional about keeping them.”

He also considers the county's high population of people born out of state as an asset for further recruitment.

“Of the 72,413 people in (Grand Forks County), 40.5% weren’t born in North Dakota,” Bertagnolli said. “I think we need to identify who those 40.5% are, and ask them to get off the bench and in the game to invite their family and friends here.”

Bertagnolli touted a virtual job fair conducted by the Grand Forks Workforce Center, in conjunction with Job Service North Dakota, as evidence of the state’s appeal to job seekers.

“We had hundreds of people from 29 states and 14 countries represented, so people are shopping North Dakota,” he said.

Banish covers news pertaining to K-12 and higher education, as well as county commission coverage.
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