New BSC Polytechnic Education Center key to addressing state’s workforce needs

Mike Kennedy
Special to Devils Lake Daily Journal

BISMARCK – State lawmakers approved and Burgum signed legislation last month providing $38 million for the BSC Polytechnic Education Center. Funding for the project was included in the governor’s Accelerate ND proposal announced in September, and Burgum thanked state legislators today for increasing the funding amount during their special session in November.

Burgum praised the project’s concept of equipping students with workplace-ready skills, credentials and degrees driven by local demand for customized career pathways. He also commended BSC’s leadership for embracing a polytechnic focus that is responsive to the unstoppable forces of demographics, economics, technology and culture that are creating challenges for higher education institutions across the country.

“Education has to be more responsive to workforce needs and more responsive to the signals from the private sector,” Burgum said during today’s press conference at BSC’s National Energy Center of Excellence. “This is far more than just a new building. This is a new pathway for higher education in North Dakota.”

Jensen said BSC will break ground in 2022 on the region’s only polytechnic institution facility. The state-of-the-art polytechnic center will feature project-based learning and nontraditional, hands-on collaborative working environments; flex labs where business and industry can partner on developing projects and ideas; and space for operating and building new programming and equipment and advancing applied research.

“BSC is now positioned to build a talent pipeline that will impact the economy for many years to come,” Jensen said.

Job Service North Dakota reported nearly 18,400 open and available online job openings in October, an increase of 40.8% compared with October 2020, and Burgum noted the actual number of job openings in the state is estimated at more than 30,000.

Burgum also signed several additional pieces of legislation from the recent special session to address the state’s workforce shortage, including

  • $88 million in matching funds for private-sector investment in career centers where high school students can pursue high-demand careers in the trades, tech and other sectors.
  • $15 million for adding or expanding local workforce development incentive grants.
  • $5 million for technical skills training grants and a workforce innovation grant program.