As part of ongoing efforts to address the state’s workforce challenges, Gov. Doug Burgum has signed legislation allowing state scholarship dollars for qualifying students to be used toward apprenticeship programs in North Dakota, along with two other bills aimed at supplying agricultural workers and helping formerly incarcerated individuals transition back into the workforce.
House Bill 1382 was unanimously approved in the House and Senate. It expands on existing law that currently provides scholarships for full-time students who attend a two-year or four-year college or university and meet certain requirements such as maintaining a grade point average (GPA) of 2.75 or higher.
Under HB 1382, the State Board of Higher Education and State Board for Career and Technical Education (CTE) will establish eligibility requirements for the apprenticeship scholarship, including full-time enrollment, program progress and a minimum GPA or equivalent measure. Students who meet the requirements and are enrolled in qualifying registered apprenticeship programs would be eligible for a scholarship of $500 each term, up to $6,000.
“As we continue working to ensure that all students leave high school choice-ready for college, career or the military, it’s important to support students who choose an apprenticeship as their career path. These students are receiving an education while also providing valuable contributions to our state’s workforce and economy,” Burgum said. “We’re grateful for the support from the Legislature, Department of Public Instruction, CTE, higher ed and the private sector for expanding opportunities for our students.”
“This bill provides additional options for our students to use the scholarship money they have earned. North Dakota’s scholarship benefit now goes beyond the traditional two- or four-year college or university. This bill gives students a greater opportunity to pursue an apprenticeship if that is the career pathway that they prefer. This bill supports the mission that all North Dakota students are choice ready when they graduate,” said Kirsten Baesler, the state superintendent of public instruction.
The bill was introduced by House Minority Leader Josh Boschee of Fargo and co-sponsored by Reps. Jayme Davis of Rolette, Pat Heinert of Bismarck, Jim Jonas of West Fargo, Mike Nathe of Bismarck, David Richter of Williston and Cynthia Schreiber-Beck of Wahpeton and Sens. Ryan Braunberger of Fargo and Michael Wobbema of Valley City.
Gov. Burgum on Wednesday also signed the Job Service North Dakota budget bill, HB 1016, which includes support for programs aimed at meeting workforce needs.
For the first time, the budget includes state general fund dollars to support the H2A Visa Program for temporary agricultural workers. Administered by Job Service, the program helps farmers and other agricultural employers who have a shortage of domestic workers by bringing non-immigrant foreign workers to the United States on a temporary or seasonal basis. The program has grown significantly in the last 15 years, from processing 219 H2A visa applications in 2007 to processing 846 applications in 2022.
The Job Service budget also includes funding for a collaborative effort with the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and a nonprofit entity to create a Job Placement Pilot Program that will connect recently or soon-to-be released ex-offenders with in-demand jobs in North Dakota. The program, recommended by the state’s Workforce Development Council, will ensure that wrap-around, supportive services are provided to participants. As of 2020, North Dakota averaged 1,400 prisoner releases each year. Funding will support two temporary employees who will work directly with DOCR case managers and the nonprofit to identify employers and participants and ensure a successful transition to employment.