WILLISTON, N.D. — Recent budget cuts to career and technical education programs have some people in North Dakota’s oil patch worried about a potential shortage of skilled workers when the oil industry ramps up.

The state’s economic downturn, partially caused by plummeting oil prices, caused shortfalls in tax revenue that forced North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple to order budget cuts that are affecting higher education institutions, the Williston Herald reported (http://bit.ly/2cJRiDg ). K-12 education, which was also subjected to budget cuts, had the cushion of a stabilization fund, but career and technical schools didn’t.

“We got cut 6.55 percent statewide, and what does that mean in dollars? $2.2 million this biennium,” said Rick Ross, executive director of the North Dakota Association for Career and Technical Education. “…The governor has now asked us to create a 90 percent budget for the 2017-2019 biennium. That cut will be $3.4 million.”

But Ross said the state needs to continue to invest in career and technical education. He said the state still has 10,000 unfilled jobs and 70 percent of them require trade skills.

The newspaper reported that Williston State College had pushed a wide range of career and technical programs because Williston — the heart of the state’s oil patch — serves as a hub for the petroleum and agriculture industries.

Ross said the oil industry will see a comeback, but the workforce won’t be ready.

“At a time when we need to prepare for the surge, you’re cutting us…we need to start preparing our students for those jobs,” he said. “When we train North Dakota students in North Dakota, they stay in North Dakota.”


Information from: Williston Herald, http://www.willistonherald.com