Local business representatives met with educators and job trainers in Minot Monday to discuss how to better prepare students for the work force.
Between $1.5 million and $2.5 million of a $25 million Hess Corp. "Succeed 2020" grant is available to develop and implement a strategic educational plan for grades 7 to 12 in public schools in Ward County.
Companies associated with Minot Area Development Corp.'s Business Expansion & Retention Program participated in Monday's roundtable discussion, along with state legislators and Job Service North Dakota officials.
The purpose was to gain insight from the companies to help develop training programs in the schools. A survey of BEAR participants found more than half would be interested in job training programs for skill sets needed in their work force.
Mid-Dakota Education Cooperative, a regional educational association, is coordinating the planning process. Cooperative staff also met separately with Minot State University officials and plan to meet today with area school representatives to have further conversations about the strategic plan. The discussions with business people also are expected to continue over the next four months.
"We are trying to identify the gaps that businesses and employers are seeing," said Luke Schaefer, the cooperative's project director. "Many of the things that we have heard have been around for some time, but the biggest focus was really on core values and critical thinking, personal responsibility and common sense."
Employers want to see the state's work ethic maintained, he said. Businesses expressed interest in hiring employees who have critical thinking and people skills rather than technical skills because the businesses can train for the technology. They believe schools can teach some of these skills by incorporating them into existing curriculum rather than creating more curriculum, he said.
Also being discussed are mentorships, early introduction of students to career exploration and more classroom exposure to equipment in the work place. Businesses suggested a balance between teaching technology and the hands-on skills needed for the trades.
The planning process is to produce an initial two-year action plan by Feb. 1, 2013.