As I read Rob Port's comments in the Wednesday May 16th Forum, I felt compelled to respond and perhaps shed some positive light on the subject.
Port started by being critical of Dr. John Richman and his staff at the North Dakota State College of Science and then talked about TrainND, the expansion for the workforce academy and finally sited some statistics about lab utilization at NDSCS.
So, maybe it is time for industry to talk about what we think about this process instead of the political talking heads. As a baby boomer what I learned was you have two choices; you can be the problem or you can be the solution.
What we see is solutions from Richman and the entire team at NDSCS whose true focus is on "workforce development". Every politician has now picked up on this buzzword and is touting what "they are doing" to improve workforce opportunities. But none of those people are as strong an advocate as Richman and his team. With over 14,000 open jobs in North Dakota and 70 percent or 10,000 of those require an associate's degree or less, the group at NDSCS are working tirelessly to engage industry partners (like ourselves), parents and students to help fill these positions. That is really their focus, they talk the talk and walk the walk.
All of the successful programs at NDSCS have industry partners. The partners are engaged with NDSCS and the programs, we donate equipment and tooling to help train these potential new employees.
So, how do you measure lab utilization? In our case there is a machine the size of your living room surrounded by a handful of students using thousands of dollars' worth of diagnostic tools troubleshooting a potential problem like the one they will need to resolve in their new careers. So, divide the square footage by some formula and I am sure it could be called "underutilized."
Last Friday we attended graduation at NDSCS and our sponsored students crossed the stage and received the keys to their new career, and on Monday reported to work to start their new careers along with about 95 percent of their fellow graduates.
Throwing stones at successful programs is not a solution. Visiting them and seeing the outcomes for yourself will convince you we have something here that is working. Industry and education as partners--what a novel idea!
Shilling is chairman of General Equipment and Supplies and General Aggregate Equipment Sales in Fargo.