A partnership between area public schools, UND and Lake Region State College in Devils Lake seeks to meet workforce needs in northeast North Dakota while allowing high school students to earn college credit.
The project is still in the early stages, but UND Provost Tom DiLorenzo and LRSC President Doug Darling each expressed excitement about the prospect of working with public school districts to help provide jobs for northeast North Dakota.
"We're excited about these opportunities that might come about with these various partnerships," DiLorenzo said.
In North Dakota and across the nation, there is a shortage of skilled workers in different areas, such as automotive technology, plumbing and heating, electrical, diesel technicians and a number of others. Career academies allow high school students to learn more about these fields and could help fill the workforce needs.
"Those are actually some really good careers that some young people could go into and make a good living and be able to stay in North Dakota and raise their families here, but they're not getting exposed to them," Darling said.
In his State of the State speech earlier this month, Gov. Doug Burgum touted the need for more career academies throughout North Dakota.
Burgum has proposed dedicating $30 million in Legacy Fund earnings to build career academies similar to the collaboration between Bismarck Public Schools and Bismarck State College. The initiative requires a one-to-one match, so any money from the state would need to be matched by a school, community or other entity.
Darling said he has reached out to Grand Forks Public Schools and Devils Lake Public Schools, both of whom are interested in the venture. DiLorenzo said the next step is to get industry partners, such as Altru Health System, the Grand Forks Region Economic Development Corp. and others, involved to find out what type of skills the Grand Forks area needs and how a partnership between the entities could help.
Each school has a strong unmanned aircraft systems program, which is a needed skill-set in the Grand Forks area, DiLorenzo said. Pre-engineering skills also may be needed in the region, he said.
"Really, we want to hear from the industry leaders and the individuals from the business community to get a better idea of what they would like to see," DiLorenzo said.
EDC President and CEO Keith Lund said he believes there could be a need for a career academy in the Grand Forks area, but there is still work to be done to determine what sectors would benefit from it.
"There needs to be buy-in and cooperation amongst the public schools, the trade schools, the universities, as well as industry," Lund said.
Through Bismarck's career academy, students can go into sectors such as health science, engineering, electronics, information technology, automotive technology, aviation, carpentry and agriculture, Burgum said.
Burgum said career academies also could be a cost-saving measure for families in North Dakota.
"We need to copy this career academy model across our state. This is one time in education where we want everyone to know, it's OK to plagiarize," he said. "Great jobs that move our economy forward, with less debt for students and families, is a winning formula."