Burgum receives Workforce Development Council’s recommendations for addressing workforce shortage

Thursday, October 25, 2018 - 11:30am

BISMARCK, N.D. – Gov. Doug Burgum today received an extensive report of recommendations designed to assist in shaping the state’s workforce policy agenda for addressing North Dakota’s workforce shortage and supporting a 21st century workforce to meet current and future needs. 

The report was the result of wide-ranging efforts by the Governor’s Workforce Development Council (WDC) and contains a number of specific recommendations, as well as endorsements of other initiatives already in progress.

“As part of our Main Street Initiative, we’ve traveled to every corner of the state listening to community leaders, employers, employees and students. And in every town, no matter the size, the biggest challenge mentioned is the shortage of workers to fill our tens of thousands of job openings,” Burgum said. “I’m deeply grateful to the Workforce Development Council members for their significant efforts to address that challenge and help position North Dakota as a leader in solving the workforce problem that permeates our entire country, and I look forward to reviewing their recommendations in this report.”

Dave Farnsworth, chairman of the WDC and manager of ND Power Generation and Engineering at Great River Energy, said he was proud to submit the report to the Governor after the Council unanimously approved it Wednesday.

“These recommendations form the foundation for a winning workforce strategy that is private sector-led, nonpartisan, impactful and sustainable,” Farnsworth said, adding the recommendations must be considered as a collective whole. “We need to be prepared to invest in our future or willing to accept the consequences if we do not.”

The report is the culmination of 11 months of intense effort by the WDC, coordinated by state Labor Commissioner and Executive Director of Job Service North Dakota Michelle Kommer.

“It was a privilege to work with industry leaders, legislators, local elected officials, representatives of labor and those with barriers to employment, as well as partner with state agencies,” Kommer said. “Together we have created a plan that is practical, evidence-based and crisply focused on key issues that, if solved, will position North Dakota as a leader in the nationwide competition for talent. While we share the challenge of a workforce shortage with other states and nations, our approach to addressing it is differentiated by our enthusiasm and willingness to work collaboratively toward a common goal.” 

The WDC’s work was guided by several principles, including that strategy is led by the private-sector, identifies a specific set of priorities for maximum impact, is supported by data and evidence, addresses both current and future needs and does not result in the expansion of government employment. 

A key theme of the report is the need to address the technical skills gap by developing a stronger connection between education and industry to ensure earlier career exposure for students; aligning skills and credentials with employers’ needs; developing more work-based learning opportunities for students; and expanding technical education opportunities. 

Other key themes include:

  • The need to expand the capacity of North Dakota’s nursing programs, particularly in rural areas, to address the nursing and health care technician shortage that has already reached a critical state across most of North Dakota. 
  • Support for individuals with barriers to employment, specifically those exiting North Dakota’s correctional systems. That includes partnering with private industry to expand training capacity inside correctional facilities and changing North Dakota’s expungement laws and occupational licensing rules to remove unnecessary obstacles.
  • The need to advance North Dakota’s status as “military friendly” to ensure that the Armed Forces can continue to recruit and retain both active and post-retirement service members and their families. The recommendations include that North Dakota join 43 other states that have eliminated income taxation for active and retired military, and strategies to expedite occupational licensure for military spouses.
  • The need to actively focus on retaining North Dakota youth and recruit new and returning North Dakotans to live and work in our great state. 

“The Council’s approach was both comprehensive and inclusive,” said WDC Vice Chairman Arnold Strebe, president of Starion Bank. “We believe we have presented an innovative, detailed road map to follow to meet the workforce challenge in North Dakota head-on.”

As the governor and his team continue to craft the executive budget proposal for the 2019-21 biennium, they will review the report and determine which recommendations they plan to move forward to ease the state’s workforce shortage. The report follows a statewide employer survey conducted this summer to identify employers’ most pressing workforce issues.

The WDC’s Report of Recommendations is available here.