BASC Seeks to Develop Workforce
Friday, October 1, 2021

Community leaders in McKenzie County have been discussing how to integrate workforce skills education for high school students and retraining for adults for the past several years, and now a plan is taking shape for establishment of the Bakken Area Skill Center. 

Formal meetings began in 2017 to develop the Workforce Skills Initiative, which allows industry partners to share curriculum with the school district as well as coordinate career visits to expose students to energy-related employment opportunities. Since then, the need for a dedicated space for hands-on skills training has grown, and community leaders have again joined forces to envision a facility that would combine all aspects of K-12, post-secondary, adult retraining and certifications, and general community outreach and education. 

The Bakken Area Skill Center will be where local industry and education meet, giving McKenzie County Public School District students and others the opportunity to train locally for high demand jobs in the Bakken. The project is a combined effort between MCPSD, McKenzie County Economic Development, and industry and educational partners.

"(Innovation and workforce) are really the foundation of what this Bakken Area Skill Center is supposed to be. It is going to be an opportunity for innovation to happen in our area, as we are finding a way to work through the rest of this area's development," said McKenzie County Superintendent Steve Holen, who spoke last week at the ND Petroleum Council's annual meeting in Watford City. "We have since the very beginning tried to work with industry because we are both very much partners in this process of providing a workforce and providing the services that they need. When asked what do you need, (industry said) we need workforce. And we want to prepare students for the workforce."

It is hoped the project will be funded in part by a competitive grant program created by HB 1015 passed by the 2021 ND Legislature. The program will allocate 1-to-1 matching grants for ND public school districts or CTE centers pursuing the expansion of career and workforce skills to students across the state. A total of $70 million was allocated with $35 million available in the first round of grants, applications for which were due October 1.

The skill center project has received several sizable donations from the private sector and other units of government. The McKenzie County Commission pledged $4 million over two years. ONEOK pledged $1 million and ConocoPhillips and Northern States Fishing Tools pledged another $100,000 each. Local American Legion and Masons organizations have also pitched in.

Holen will share more on the Bakken Area Skill Center, the project's plans and goals, and how to get involved at the WDEA annual meeting on Thursday, October 14, in Williston.