Burgum, Kommer release results of statewide workforce survey, announce occupational licensing study

Friday, August 31, 2018 - 2:00pm

BISMARCK, N.D. – Gov. Doug Burgum and Labor Commissioner Michelle Kommer today released the results of a statewide survey of employers designed to provide a deeper understanding of North Dakota’s workforce challenges and help shape the state’s workforce policy agenda.

The survey was conducted in June at the direction of Burgum and Kommer, who is also executive director of Job Service North Dakota. It was sponsored by the North Dakota Workforce Development Council and the Greater North Dakota Chamber (GNDC) and supported by North Dakota State University’s Center for the Study of Public Choice and Private Enterprise (PCPE).

“The ability to attract and retain a workforce prepared to meet the demands of a 21st century economy has consistently emerged as the biggest challenge and top priority for communities as we’ve traveled the state discussing our Main Street Initiative,” Burgum said. “North Dakota is in a global competition for talent, and our ability to create strategies and policies that position our state as a leader in workforce recruitment and retention is crucial. I’m encouraged by the insight we’ve gained from the survey and look forward to the recommendations it inspires.”

“These survey results will be combined with feedback, data and evidence gained over several months of work by the Workforce Development Council,” Kommer said. “We plan to provide targeted workforce recommendations to the Governor to inform the 2019-21 policy agenda, with details on those recommendations becoming available in October.”

“I’m confident this survey, combined with other efforts, will help better inform policymakers and business leaders about possible creative strategies to address our workforce shortage,” GNDC President and CEO Arik Spencer said. “It is important for the private sector to take charge of innovating solutions in partnership with the state. This public/private cooperation will be an exciting approach to new workforce solutions.”

Workforce is one of the three pillars of the governor’s Main Street Initiative and, according to the survey, the single biggest barrier to North Dakota’s economic growth. Half of all survey respondents reported that their inability to hire and retain qualified candidates is a hindrance to growth.

Among the survey’s other key findings:

  • 28 percent of job openings go unfilled for longer than three months.
  • Nearly half of hiring managers view high wage demands and limited talent pool as a barrier to hiring key workers.
  • 75 percent of hiring managers have no formal training budget.

Recognizing the importance of all qualified employees being able to participate in the workforce, the Workforce Development Council identified North Dakota's current occupational licensing approach as a potential barrier. Today, there are more than 80 licensed occupations in North Dakota, governed by 60 boards, agencies and commissions.

A cross-agency team applied for and was awarded a $450,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to study the occupational licensing system with a goal of removing unnecessary barriers. The Knee Center for the Study of Occupational Regulation at St. Francis University in Loretto, Pa., has been contracted to conduct the three-year study, and early work will focus on high-demand occupations.

The full 2018 Workforce Survey report is available here.

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The Workforce Development Council (WDC) consists of a group of dedicated state-wide representatives from both private industry and labor, appointed by the Governor. While in place since 1995, Governor Burgum has reinvigorated the WDC, through reorganization, new expectations, and new membership. With workforce as one of the Governor’s three Main Street Initiative priorities, he has tasked the WDC with conducting a comprehensive state-wide review, which, for the first time, will result in data-driven, evidence-based research, designed to produce targeted workforce recommendations to the Governor for his 2019-21 policy agenda. 

About the Greater North Dakota Chamber (www.ndchamber.com): The Greater North Dakota Chamber is the state’s premier business advocacy organization. With more than 1,000 members across the state, in every economic sector, GNDC represents the interests of our members in promoting policies and initiatives in pursuit of making North Dakota’s business climate the best in the nation.