The legislature funded technical education centers | Chroniclers

Contrary to what we reported last week, the legislature has allocated appropriate funds to the technical education centers proposed by Senator Rich Wardner. They stripped the bond bill of the proposed $ 60 million and adopted $ 70 million for the centers in general credits. (And lost me in the process.)

If administered effectively, tech education centers will mean a new day for thousands of North Dakotans – young people who aren’t interested in 4-year college degrees, workers whose jobs have disappeared in COVID, convicts hoping for a fresh start and older than average. students who want to join the new economy.

“Technical education” basically means STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

STEM fields

Specifically, STEM covers life sciences, agricultural and environmental sciences, physical and earth sciences, architecture, engineering, computer and information sciences, mathematics and statistics, and many areas related to health.

Writing in Governing, Carl Smith noted that “COVID-19 has forced a reinvention of work and workplaces, accelerating changes towards new technologies and practices in the workplace. Workers who lacked the skills to handle this disruption faced enormous obstacles, and many jobs that were “temporarily” occupied by automation will never return. “

“The need for training systems that can keep pace with rapidly changing technology and the nature of work itself has never been so obvious or urgent,” he observed.

Longer sessions?

Sophie Quinton, reporting on state training for Stateline, notes that some economic development specialists are concerned about short-term training, suggesting that states invest in programs of at least six months of training for well-paying jobs in today’s economy and the training of the workforce on a large scale. will require more federal money.

Smith quotes Rachel Lipson, director of the Harvard Project on Workforce: “The plurality of the American workforce does not have a four-year college degree. We cannot let go and say that four-year colleges are the only answer. “

Lipson’s comments about four-year colleges hit a nerve in North Dakota.

College status

First, there is an unwritten assumption that a college education creates level one in society, meaning those without a college degree are level two. Parents are on the defensive when they have children who prefer technical training rather than the four-year diploma.

After 60 years of service and teaching in government, I have identified a number of pitfalls that could hinder the development of the workforce training offered under the Wardner program.

Personal policy

In previous columns, I noted that North Dakota, being a small population state, suffers from personal politics, which means that decisions are sometimes made, not on the basis of what, but on the basis of who.

Example: When I was chairing the Senate, the appropriation bill for the 11 state universities came before the body and someone proposed that the issue be divided. So we methodically went through the colleges, each squeaking with one or two votes. The 11th article was the University of North Dakota led by Thomas Clifford.

He lost by a voice. The silence was loud.

Leaving aside all the formalities outlined in Mason’s rules, a senator from Bismarck jumped up and exclaimed, “We can’t do this to Tom.”

The vote on point 11 was reconsidered and the appropriations for the University were adopted.

Location of institutes

Another pitfall will be the interfacing of new technical institutes with existing programs in educational institutions that currently teach parts of STEM. Every institution with a STEM course will want to include their curriculum for a piece of the pie.

Most of us know how the North Dakota Constitutional Convention of 1889 distributed institutions to different communities, a political ploy that plagues us today with more institutions than we need. So if new institutes are built, where will they be located?

Either way, the technical education program will be a boon to the economy and the people of the state.

About Rachel Gooch

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