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Burgum to higher ed: Workforce should be top priority

Gov. Doug Burgum had this message for North Dakota’s University System.

"Anything that this Envision group does has got to tie itself to workforce," Burgum told the Envision 2035 summit, held at Bismarck State College.

The summit brought together college presidents, the state Board of Higher Education, and instructors, to talk about the future of higher education in North Dakota.

Burgum was the first speaker at the summit. He said there are a number of companies with big projects looking at North Dakota – but he said the companies are concerned about whether they will be able to fill the jobs that come with those projects. He pointed to the ADM soybean crushing plant to be built near Jamestown. He said he and an adviser were on the phone with the CEO of ADM.

"He said, 'The Board is ready to approve $350 million, but Governor, I want to talk to you about — can I hire 75 people in Jamestown?'" Burgum said. "I'm like — what world are we living in?"

Burgum said it used to be that North Dakota had labor, and offered incentives to companies to move here.

"And we would beg for the capital," Burgum said. "No — they have the capital, and they're looking for workforce."

Burgum also said the universities should look at sharing facilities, to cut down on construction needs.

"Do we need more classrooms, or do we need more opportunities for co-ops, and hands-on, team-based real world learning, that doesn't actually require the kind of campus model, where we think, 'There's a moat around our campus, and we can get people to come here, and spend four years here,'" Burgum said.

Burgum said there would be exceptions — for career academies and research facilities.

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