With the North Dakota Legislature meeting just every two years, there are some initiatives on the table that cannot wait for the 2021 session and need to be addressed now.

In North Dakota we saw dramatic changes between 2009 and 2011 with the oil boom and again between 2015 and 2016 when the oil boom turned down. A lot happens in two years so we must look ahead.

Today we have over 30,000 jobs in North Dakota unfilled. We see 50 percent of the businesses reporting they cannot grow their business without availability of additional skilled workforce. We see two-thirds of the companies in North Dakota reporting that it takes over three months to fill a typical skilled position. With 70 percent of the businesses having nine employees or less, they do not have the depth or resources to get heavily into the recruiting process on their own, they must manage their day-to-day operations.

The ND Workforce Development Council published a report in October 2018 identifying over three dozen recommendations, which if followed could improve our workforce situation. This report was given to the governor and all members of the Legislature (in some cases many times). Many items in the governor’s proposed budget were a direct result of this report.

To date, many of these recommendations have been ignored or bushed over. SB2341 – dealing with apprenticeships, HB 1018 – dealing with career exposure and youth community engagement, and HB1019 – dealing with the career academies have zero funding after crossover from each respective chamber. These three are important to North Dakota.

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Student tuition programs are addressed in both HB 1171 and SB 2039. These bills need to be combined, fine-tuned and their appropriations increased from $5 million to $10 million minimum. We are surrounded by other states that already have these types of programs in place.

Rural nursing program grants and nursing faculty tuition program grants are also a part of HB 1018 and are getting zero dollars.

We are coming down to the wire. In the next few days these appropriation bills will be finalized, and I am just afraid we will have gone another session with limited action on a critical need for North Dakota.

Government does not create jobs, but government is responsible for creating opportunities and pathways for success of our citizens through both programs and our educational institutions. Our youth today can gain a skill and education in North Dakota and remain here in an interesting and outstanding career if we just act on and fund these potential opportunities.

The ND Workforce Development Council is comprised of over 30 volunteer citizens of North Dakota from private, public and educational sectors. The council’s recommendations should not be ignored or set aside. Dollars committed to workforce programs are an investment not an expense. It’s our future.

Shilling is a member of the North Dakota Workforce Development Council and chairman of the board of General Equipment & Supplies in Fargo