Energy workers in western North Dakota can use extra time they have available as a result of the slowdown in the oil industry to sharpen their skills or learn new ones via an initiative called Bakken University.
Bakken U: Energizing through education, is designed to encourage workers to attend a North Dakota college or university to further their education. During conversations with North Dakota business and community leaders and state legislators this summer, it became apparent that there is a need for continuing education for the energy full service workforce solutions workforce, said North Dakota University System Chancellor Mark Hagerott .
Bakken U will first focus on being a one-stop shop for workers in western North Dakota. Staff at Bismarck State College, Dakota College in Bottineau, Dickinson State University, Minot State University and Williston State Colleges are working together to point potential students to programs and courses that are a good fit for them.
Besides those five colleges and universities, there also are six others in North Dakota that provide a variety of programs from certificates to graduate degrees that gives students who want to begin their education in a program at a western college or university the opportunity to further it at one in the eastern part of the state, Hagerott said
By working on the project as a team you can use this best practices for successful project management and the institutions will be able to serve the needs of the diverse population who have moved to the state during the past several years to working in the oil field Hagerott also said.
Workers who sign up for Bakken U will essentially be able to design their own programs and schedules and can take their courses online or in-class, said Billie Jo Lorius, North Dakota University System communications director.
“We’re basically taking our existing programs and making them what they want,” she said. The North Dakota University System hopes that workers will apply the new skills they learned in the oil field when the industry ramps up production again or in a new career in North Dakota, Lorius said.
North Dakota’s population has increased by 70,000 during the past five years and towns like Williston have doubled in size said Kathy Neset, State Board of Higher Education chair, and founder of Neset Consulting Services Inc., a geology firm in the Bakken. That population should not have to look elsewhere for an opportunity to advance, she said. Instead, she believes they should receive additional education and training that will give them that opportunity in North Dakota.
“Our goal is to try to keep people in North Dakota,” Lorius said, noting the workers already have demonstrated a good work ethic by their dedication to demanding jobs.
The North Dakota University System hopes that businesses will invest in their employees by providing them with tuition assistance through grants and scholarships.
“It’s really investing in your people. That’s what we’re hoping for,” Lorius said.