Statewide workforce shortage hits Grand Forks area businesses

In North Dakota's booming economy, statistics show plenty of jobs but scarcely enough workers -- and Grand Forks is no exception. With Grand Forks County's low unemployment rate of 2.9 percent, companies and businesses in all industries need more...




In North Dakota’s booming economy, statistics show plenty of jobs but scarcely enough workers - and Grand Forks is no exception.

With Grand Forks County’s low unemployment rate of 2.9 percent, companies and businesses in all industries need more workers, said Keith Reitmeier, manager of the Job Service North Dakota office in Grand Forks.

“We just need more people, I think,” Reitmeier said. “We need to attract people to North Dakota to fill these jobs.”


For Grand Forks, Nelson, Walsh and Pembina counties, Job Service had 2,799 job openings listed in June and only 778 active resumes.

And although there are needs in all industries, some are hurting more than others.

In the Grand Forks region, some areas with the highest need for workers are construction, trucking and transportation, retail, food service, and trades, Reitmeier said.

Managers of companies in those industries said it’s normal for their fields to need workers - retail usually has high turnover anywhere, for example, and there is a nationwide shortage of truck drivers.

But they also agreed that North Dakota’s rapidly growing economy contributes to their growing number of job openings.

Going west

Lunseth Plumbing and Heating Co., in Grand Forks has been struggling to find skilled workers for about five years, said Jim Kasprick, owner and manager.


“We’re starving,” Kasprick said. “Are they all going to the Bakken? I don’t know,” he said referring to the oil-rich Bakken Formation in western North Dakota.

He added that there seems to be less interest among younger generations to study trade work. “They don’t see it’s needed down the road, but it is,” he said.

Britton Transport in Grand Forks is also in need of workers, said Kassi Fortman, a recruiter for the company.

It’s the nature of the trucking industry to always have openings, she said, but North Dakota’s prosperous job market has increased companies’ competition for employees.

Britton Transport has also lost some workers to the Oil Patch, Fortman said.

“We’ve seen a lot of the employees go to the oil fields, but then a lot of them come back,” she said, because work in the fields is often more straining than people may think.

Grand Forks’ shortage of workers probably won’t ease anytime soon, as Keith Lund, vice president of the Grand Forks Region Economic Development Corp. said companies are still adding jobs and expanding in Grand Forks.

Both Lund and Reitmeier are on the Grand Forks Workforce Committee, recently formed to address the region’s workforce shortage.


Getting creative

The workforce shortage is causing local businesses to get creative with recruiting tactics, Reitmeier said. “It’s no longer just putting an ad in the paper.”

He said he’d heard of one Grand Forks pizza restaurant handing out job descriptions with delivered pizzas.

Like many companies, both Britton Transport and Lunseth Plumbing and Heating offer training programs and even tuition reimbursement for new employees.

“We’re not only looking for labor workers, we’re looking for skilled workers, and we’re willing to train,” Kasprick said.

Lund said he has seen area businesses raise salaries, improve benefit packages and offer more employee referral incentives in attempt to attract workers.

Job Service North Dakota has also made efforts to bring workers to North Dakota, Reitmeier said, including sending recruiters to job fairs as far away as Texas and Oklahoma.



Top 10 industries with job openings

Here are the 10 industries with the highest number of job openings in the Grand Forks region listed with Job Service North Dakota in June.

1. Office and administrative support: 392 openings

2. Sales and related: 282

3. Transportation and material moving: 272

4. Food preparation and serving related: 235

5. Construction and extraction: 194


6. Management: 166

7. Installation, maintenance and repair: 163

8. Education, training and library: 154

9. Building and grounds cleaning and maintenance: 130

10. Healthcare practitioners and technical: 108

DL’s labor shortage

In Monday’s Herald, read about the workforce shortage in the Devils Lake region.

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