Four western North Dakota colleges celebrated the completion of a six-year-long $24 million grant that resulted in thousands of trained individuals ready to fill crucial workforce needs in North Dakota.
In 2012 Bismarck State College (BSC), Sitting Bull College (SBC), Turtle Mountain Community College (TMCC) and Williston State College (WSC) partnered to form the TREND Consortium, or Training for Regional Energy in North Dakota. The four shared in two rounds of grants from the U.S. Department of Labor, $14.6 million in 2012 and $9.9 million in 2014. These grants, provided under the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) program, aimed to assist institutions in improving their delivery of education and career training programs that could be completed in two years or less.
BSC was the lead institution for the grant, which President Larry C. Skogen said allowed schools to purchase equipment and upgrade facilities that will continue to benefit future students for years to come.
“With this, we were able to expand programs,” Skogen said. “We educated and trained a lot individuals who are out in the workforce now.”
More than 2,300 students received training in the 2012-2016 round of grant funding, and more than 2,200 students benefited from the 2014-2018 round. TMCC was able to begin a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) training program, with more than 100 people obtaining their CDL through the program.
“They’re probably all over the country driving now,” said Dr. Jim Davis, president of TMCC. He also emphasized the importance of the collaboration between tribal colleges and colleges in the North Dakota University System. “If they hadn’t opened their doors, we wouldn’t be standing here,” he said.
Dr. John Miller, president of WSC, agreed. “They provided the critical mass and leadership for us to bring this project home,” he said. Miller says the grant enabled WSC to double the enrollments in the college’s technical programs and provided funding necessary for the development of expensive new technical labs. “The grant for Williston State College was transformational,” he said. He added the grant also helped the school transform numerous internal processes and connections with students resulting in an updated advising system for all students at WSC.
SBC Vice President Dr. Koreen Ressler said the grant enabled them to recruit more males into programs, increasing male enrollment at the school to 40% of students, up from 30% before the grants. Ressler says grant-funded programs at SBC focused on construction and trades and the school plans to continue those programs into the future.
“This really assisted us. We’re proud to be able to sustain these programs,” she said.
All four campus presidents spoke about the desire to continue their collaboration into the future.