Department of Labor grant will enhance apprenticeships in North Dakota

Addressing the expansion of state apprenticeship programs in North Dakota  will be the focus of a U.S. Department of Labor grant.

North Dakota Department of Career and Technical Education has been awarded a grant for $438,000 for a project that builds state capacity to expand apprenticeships through innovations. 

“Apprenticeship have been a proven workforce development program in many occupations, specifically in the trades industries. What we wish to accomplish with this program is to show how it can be a solution in non-traditional apprenticeship fields, such as IT, cybersecurity and finance,” said Wayde Sick, director and executive officer of ND CTE.

Lake Region State College in Devils Lake will take the lead on the grant project and work with an advisory team consisting of academic institutions, community colleges, several state departments and industry partner representation.

Dr. Doug Darling, LRSC president, said the project submitted was a request titled Building Registered Apprenticeships through Innovative Networks, or ND BRAIN. 

“ND BRAIN, as proposed by NDCTE, is a statewide initiative ensuring Registered Apprenticeships are a viable career path for youth, adults, and career-seekers as well as a valuable workforce development strategy for businesses,” Darling said.

The award funds will create opportunities to increase the number of apprenticeships in the Registered Apprenticeship Program (RAP), support and encourage diversification in that program, and support integration of RAPs into workforce development, education, and economic development programs. The project will align career and technical education programs with quality apprenticeships. Such work will ensure a viable and successful career path whether they are youth, adults or new career seekers.  

“It’s great that North Dakota received this grant to further career opportunities for its citizens. Programs like this further workforce development and allow us to reach younger populations so they can consider additional career options,” said Barry Dutton, ND State Director of the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Apprenticeship.

Individuals can begin the process through initial assessment of an individual’s experiences, employability, interests and aptitudes. 

“This grant gives ND CTE and community colleges an opportunity to close skill gaps at the college level by aligning high school education and training with career and technical education training offered at two-year or community colleges,” Darling said.

Targeted industry and related registered apprenticeships are nontraditional technologically-advanced careers such as information technology, cyber security, precision agriculture, healthcare, business and finance. 

Funds will be utilized to increase the percentage of non-traditional student/apprentices including females, under-served ethnic and race groups, the disabled, and military personnel and their spouses. 

“A comprehensive data management system with embedded continued quality improvement measures will provide an accurate summary with targeted marketing to fill the ND workforce gaps,” Sick said. 

Funds will also be used to improve data collection and sharing and data integrity allowing identification of the state’s workforce needs and identifying opportunities for filling those open positions. 

The program will utilize the dual model developed by Lake Region State College (LRSC) which offers a federally registered apprenticeship while simultaneously obtaining a college degree The LRSC Earn and Learn programs include internships, pre-apprenticeships and apprenticeships providing hands-on learning opportunities in the actual workplace. 

Sick and Darling added that the ND Workforce Development Council (NDWDC) has worked to grasp ND workforce challenges and developed a workforce plan by identifying data-driven priorities, maximizing resources, and aligning the educational system with industry needs to drive and create actionable solutions. 

“This project will implement processes to address several of the priorities identified by NDWDC for the state, such as technical skills gap, the need for youth engagement and earlier, more diverse career exploration, and support for populations with barriers to employment,” Sick said.

The grant term is July 1, 2020, to June 30, 2023.