NEW TOWN Fort Berthold Community College in New Town is meeting the needs of the region with its energy-related programs.
Russell Mason Jr., college president, said Fort Berthold Community College in New Town is in the very center of oil exploration in the Bakken Formation, making the need for skilled, trained, and certified workers perhaps more acute on the Fort Berthold Reservation than anywhere else.
The college is expanding its existing welding program, will periodically offer training for commercial driver's licenses, and is reviving its building/construction technology program.
Fort Berthold Community College in New Town is expanding its existing welding program and making other changes to train and certify people for jobs in the oil field.
"We will continue to lead students to American Welding Society certifications for immediate entry into the workforce, and will offer the opportunity to obtain college Vocational Certificates and/or Associate of Applied Science degrees," Mason said.
Fort Berthold Community College, Williston State College, Bismarck State College, Sitting Bull College at Fort Yates and Turtle Mountain Community College at Belcourt banded together earlier this year, and were among the recipients for Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training grant program funds made available through the U.S. Department of Labor.
The Training for Energy in North Dakota Consortium received $14.6 million, which will assist each of the institutions with expanding current energy-related programs, enhancing career navigation services, and creating new training programs with a focus on energy-related occupations.
"Through the Department of Labor funds we are able to locally address the need for trained drivers for tankers and other big rigs understanding and accommodating the unique
challenges posed by North Dakota winters. The grant has created the opportunity to hire instructors, obtain simulators and purchase at least one commercial truck for on-site training," Mason said.
"Benefits for students completing our programs include steady employment, higher wages and the possibility to advance in a career."
Bob Woodle, Fort Berthold Community College math instructor and Training for Energy in N.D. Consortium liaison, added that the college is now able to offer training in heavy equipment operations, basic oil-field work, safety and electrician certification. Spring registration will take place in early January. Among the classes offered is a five-week course titled, "Oil and Gas Production Operator Basics."
In accordance with the consortium's goals, Mason said, "Most importantly, we do not have to do everything by ourselves."
Via distance education and cooperative agreements within the consortium, students will have the opportunity to interact with the other colleges to prepare for current and future career opportunities related to the region's oil and gas activity and projects such as the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation clean fuels refinery.
"With our critical and ongoing housing shortage restricting the ability to bring in workers and/or trainees, we need to be able to offer quality training to our local population," Mason said. "It's an imperative to maintain our relevance. As industry growth expands around us, we need to expand as well."