IMPACT MAGAZINE: Building a workforce: Area colleges taking seriously the task of preparing future workers

North Dakota State University engineering students work on a steel bridge project. NDSU / Special to the Forum

Essential to every vibrant community are great companies, a diverse job market and plenty of skilled workers to fill those positions. That formula for success is clearly working in the Fargo-Moorhead area, where countless rewarding careers await qualified candidates at successful companies.

To cultivate a robust workforce, government , businesses, economic development organizations , nonprofits , high schools and colleges in Fargo-Moorhead are pairing innovative educational programming with dynamic recruitment and retainment strategies to create the next generation of skilled workers.

Those partners include:

These groups have taken the lead in skilled workforce creation. The labor force is steadily increasing, keeping pace with job availability. In a region with a low unemployment rate, at 2.3%, these organizations are serious about filling jobs – and keeping them filled – for the employers who call Fargo-Moorhead home.
Regional workforce development program incentives include:


  • Operation Intern, North Dakota

  • North Dakota New Jobs Training Grant

  • Workforce Recruitment Credit, North Dakota

  • Minnesota Job Skills Partnership Program

  • Hire Education Loan Program

  • Minnesota Pathways Program

  • Special Incumbent Worker Training Program

  • Low Income Worker Training Program

  • Job Training Incentive Program

Growing the workforce starts with the schools. Area high schools and colleges have taken inventive approaches to skills training and education. Once students find a job, they tend to stay in the area. When it comes to retention, Fargo-Moorhead-West Fargo’s low cost of living and high quality of life speak for themselves.
Read what area colleges offer to train tomorrow’s workforce:

A student trains in the Diesel Equipment Technology program at Minnesota State Community and Technical College. M State / Special to the Forum

Minnesota State Community and Technical College

Minnesota State Community and Technical College (M State) and its M State Workforce Development Solutions has supported businesses and industries throughout the region with skills and technology training. The programs offer more than 100,000 hours of training to more than 6,000 students annually. Training is delivered on-site, online, on campus and through mobile units that travel to work sites.

G.L. Tucker, executive director of M State Workforce Development Solutions for the past 11 years, said the school will tailor training curriculum to meet the needs of the local businesses, whether it’s StrengthFinder for leadership building or advanced welding classes for manufacturers.

“We help industries check the boxes on all the skillsets they need,” Tucker said. "M State wants to be at the table when local and regional industries are setting their workforce development strategy."1

“There’s a workforce shortage in the entire (Fargo-Moorhead) area,” Tucker said. “Employers can’t be turning people over. They need to rewarding them and moving them up the ladder. No employee comes with all the skills an employer needs, so it’s important to offer the employee those training opportunities.”

Specialized training programs at M State include:


  • Welding: M State’s 12-station mobile welding trailer is equipped to provide training in gas metal arc welding, fluxed cored arc welding, gas tungsten arc welding, shielded metal arc welding, thermal cutting and inspections. Students receive tailored curriculum and can earn a number of welding certifications.

  • Diesel Equipment Technology: Accredited through the Associated Equipment Distributors Foundation, M State offers four programs in diesel equipment technology. Graduates are prepared for a career in the maintenance of trucks and trailers, farm equipment, construction equipment, stationary diesel engines and more.

  • Dental: M State’s Community Dental Clinic provides dental care for nearly 800 patients a year while offering valuable teaching and training opportunities for students. The program teaches students to work closely with dentists, manage business office responsibilities, perform lab procedures, take digital X-rays and more.

  • Cardiovascular technology, surgical technology programs and more are available.

North Dakota State College of Sciences offers several specializations in its information and communications technology program. Special to the Forum / NDSCS

North Dakota State College of Sciences

North Dakota State College of Sciences (NDSCS) offers fast-paced associate’s degree training for those looking to advance their careers. For some, a degree is attainable in one year.

At NDSCS, students gain real-world skills working with new technologies and equipment and learning from experienced experts. Most importantly, graduates are prepared to jump right into it with a challenging, high-paying and rewarding career.


Programs available include:

NDSCS was recognized in The Aspen Institute’s Workforce Playbook , which was released in June 2019. This national publication highlights NDSCS' ability to recognize and act upon local workforce challenges.

From the report, “For leaders at North Dakota State College of Science in Wahpeton, demographic data showed that hundreds of recently arrived refugees were languishing at the edges of the economy at the same time regional employers were unable to fill jobs.

'We were serving our traditional populations well, and our top programs were even attracting students from out of state,’ said President John Richman in the report. ‘But meanwhile, we had people right next door who weren’t coming through our doors.’ After recognizing this gap, NDSCS responded with programming that combined high-demand technical training with embedded English language training."


NDSCS participates in industry partnerships with companies such as John Deere, Sanford Health and Emerson Process Management among others, to provide training to students as well as sponsorships . Some businesses choose to sponsor students during their training to help those students complete their classwork and remain in the area. Sponsorships may include:

  • Tuition reimbursement agreements/contracts

  • Signing bonuses or incentive paybacks

  • Tool purchasing agreements

  • Guaranteed Cooperative Education experiences and/or internships

  • Uniform/branded apparel

A North Dakota State University student works in a pharmacy lab. NDSU / Special to the Forum

North Dakota State University

As a student-focused, land grant, research university, North Dakota State University aims to educate future leaders through hands-on education and connections made on-campus. NDSU is one of North Dakota’s main suppliers of qualified, trained workers entering the workforce. NDSU offers certificate programs, career expos, university-employee partnerships, internships and apprenticeships to grow the regional workforce.

“Students are being recruited by their junior, sometimes even their sophomore year,” NDSU President Dean Bresciani has stated. “So by the time they hit their senior year, they can tell you where they are going to work and what day they are going to start on when they graduate."


Several short-term certificates are offered at NDSU to provide students the necessary skills and accreditation for various fields.

One of the many certificate programs available through the NDSU Department of Construction Management and Engineering will offer a class during the fall 2019 semester that will allow students to earn a digital LEED Lab “badge” after passing the class, as well as earn the LEED AP O+M professional certificate. Having this experience and certification helps prepare students for a career as a field engineer, office engineer, project engineer, construction executive, project controls engineer, superintendent and project manager.


Career expos

In 2018, more than 250 employers attended the two-day Spring Career Expo , open to NDSU students and alumni. At the expo, students can connect with employers to discuss or interview for jobs and internships.

University-employer partnerships

Through company spotlight days, employer presentations, faculty luncheons, in-class presentations and on-campus interviews, area employers can connect with prospective new hires . NDSU partners with several employers such as Microsoft, Gate City Bank, John Deere, Doosan Bobcat, Sanford Health, Essentia Health and more.

One such partnership is the NDSU School of Nursing at Sanford Health , which teaches nursing students hands-on emergency techniques with the help of University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences students to further expand their skills.


More than 140 students were enrolled in the 2019 Summer Internship Program through NDSU. Throughout each internship , students and their employers are asked to evaluate the experience based on eight major competencies. The National Association of Colleges and Employers cites these competencies as critical thinking/problem solving, digital technology, career management, oral/written communications, leadership, global/intercultural fluency, teamwork/collaboration, and professionalism/work ethic.

In 2018, the top employers of NDSU graduates included: Sanford Health, Essentia Health, Bell Bank, Doosan Bobcat North America, Eide Bailly LLP, Fargo Public Schools, Mayo Clinic, Northern Cass School District 97, CHI St. Alexius Health Center, John Deere Electronic Solutions, West Fargo Public Schools, CNH Industrial, Oakes Public School, Walgreens and Wanzek Construction.


As analyzed in 2015-2016, past and present NDSU students generated $560.4 million in added income for the region. This $560.4 million in added income is equivalent to supporting 7,773 jobs. The overall impact of NDSU on the local business community amounted to $927.3 million which supports 11,886 jobs; 1,814 in professional and technical services, 1,135 in government, 1,041 in health care and social assistance, 406 in manufacturing, 483 in construction, and 7,009 in other industries.

093019.IMPACT.BUILDING A WORKFORCE.Concordia.Accelerated Nursing 101818075131.jpg
Concordia College's Accelerated Nursing Program is a 16-month program for students who have completed a bachelor's degree. Concordia / Special to the Forum

Concordia College

While Concordia College in Moorhead offers a liberal arts education steeped in 120 areas of study, the school also provides intensive, hands-on learning experiences, some of which are known as Pivotal Experience in Applied Knowledge (PEAK). A PEAK might be a special course, an internship, global learning experience or service project, and each student will have at least two PEAK experiences before graduating.

Concordia grants bachelor of arts and bachelor of music degrees, as well as a master of education in world language instruction and a master of science in nutrition with an emphasis in dietetics leadership. Several majors also lead to professional licensure, including elementary and secondary education, healthcare administration, long-term care administration and English as a second language. The college’s top majors are biology, business, education, nursing and psychology.

Ninety-three percent of recently surveyed Concordia graduates were accepted to graduate school or employed full time within nine months of graduation.

Over the last 5 years, Concordia had about 350 graduates stay to work or go to school in Fargo-Moorhead after graduation.

Music at Concordia

A full member of the National Association of Schools of Music, Concordia has long been recognized nationally for its music program . Students can participate in 19 music organizations and more than 700 private lessons are taken each week. Professionally, alumni sing, play and conduct in some of the most prestigious concert halls and opera houses in the world and are recognized composers. One-third of students participate in music ensembles.

Gavin Doppler, a student at Minnesota State University Moorhead. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

Minnesota State University Moorhead

Part of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, Minnesota State University Moorhead is a public university with 146 areas of study.

One of its best-known hands-on training experiences for students is Flypaper Creative Services , a student-run advertising agency that takes on projects for nonprofits and business startups.

Business majors can develop professional skills by participating in an internship at one of many local businesses through the Paseka School of Business .

MSUM Computer Information Systems students can take advantage of the school’s STEM Learning Community learning environment, advanced computer labs and internships at companies such as Microsoft Business Solutions, IBM, 3M, Cargill and American Crystal Sugar Co.

The MSUM biosciences and related sciences departments are known for advanced facilities, prairie restoration projects, a greenhouse and herbarium, instrumentation and other tools for real-world learning.


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