Careers availableWith thousands of jobs available in North Dakota, most requiring two years or less of education, several agencies have joined forces to let young area high school students learn career options. The work force, or lack of it, in the state has been a hot-button issue for economic developers, businesses and the Legislature. Finding solutions has been the focus for them all. In Region 6, which is made up of nine counties, an interagency group has settled on a career fair, with businesses showcasing their jobs and students discovering what their future can be without a four-year degree.
By: Toni Pirkl, The Jamestown Sun
With thousands of jobs available in North Dakota, most requiring two years or less of education, several agencies have joined forces to let young area high school students learn career options.
The work force, or lack of it, in the state has been a hot-button issue for economic developers, businesses and the Legislature. Finding solutions has been the focus for them all. In Region 6, which is made up of nine counties, an interagency group has settled on a career fair, with businesses showcasing their jobs and students discovering what their future can be without a four-year degree.
“We’re trying to get the information out there so kids can make good choices,” said Jaci Gately, the area Job Service manager.
Patterned after a Fargo career fair, the interagency planning committee has been working on this first-ever event for nearly two years. The committee consists of special education unit directors, vocational rehabilitation and school counselors, as well as representatives of the Anne Carlsen Center, career and technology centers, Job Service and Community Options.
Now the group is ready to involve area businesses, who want to introduce students in grades 9 and 10 to possible occupations with a taste of what it’s like. The first-ever Health, Technology and Trades Career Fair is scheduled for Nov. 19 at the Civic Center in Jamestown.
“There are an awful lot of jobs that don’t require a four-year degree and pay well,” said committee member Cheryl Wold, director of the East Central Special Education Unit. “And we’d like our kids to stay in North Dakota.”
For example, the average annual salary in North Dakota for someone holding a bachelor’s degree is $44,052 and for those with an associate’s degree it’s $42,364, according to North Dakota Job Service. That’s less than $2,000 difference.
None of these committee members are saying students shouldn’t get a four-year degree. Their concern is that students don’t know there are other choices they can make. The work force need in the state is for skilled labor, which means at least some post high school education or training.
“It really depends on the goal as to whether a student should go for a four-year or two-year program,” said Carol Jabs, Sheyenne Special Education Unit director.
Most of the schools in the region have already penciled in the career fair, committee members said. Now it’s businesses that are needed. The committee is pushing hands-on activities to give students a feel for the occupation. And if businesses need a little help coming up with activities or demonstrations, Gately said, they can call her for help.
“At the Fargo event, the more hands-on it was, the longer the line,” said Ann Ede, program director for Career Options, a branch of Community Options.
But for now, Gately said, letters will be going out next week to regional businesses asking them to take advantage of this opportunity.
“They can showcase their businesses and do a little early recruiting,” Gately said. “Hopefully, we’ll have businesses from the small rural communities, too.”
The committee is targeting younger high school students so they can look at the classes they’ll need to take in their junior and senior years in preparation. However, it’s not limited to them.
“We’re leaving it up to the schools what grade levels they’ll send,” Wold said.
Among the 10 fastest growing jobs in the state are civil engineering technician, medical lab technician, radiology technologist, ag and food science technician and dental hygienist. Industries that are growing in the state are energy, information technology, tourism, health care and manufacturing.
Representatives from two-year and trade schools in the state are also invited to participate to give students an idea of what training or education they offer. Parents are welcome as well.
So far, the career fair is receiving support from a Department of Public Instruction grant with Barnes County Economic Development and the Jamestown/ Stutsman Development Corp. sponsoring the event.
“We’re still working on sponsorships, especially from businesses,” Gately said
Sun reporter Toni Pirkl can be reached at (701) 952-8453 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org