The North Dakota Regional Workforce Impact Program: Addressing workforce challenges in North Dakota

The North Dakota Regional Workforce Impact Program: Addressing workforce challenges in North Dakota Main Photo

9 Feb 2023


According to the North Dakota Workforce Review, the global COVID-19 pandemic triggered the creation of public health policies, mandates, and guidelines, which impacted the economy at every level – globally, nationally, and locally. The impact is reflected in metrics such as higher unemployment numbers, lower total employment at each industry level, and a decrease in the labor force in North Dakota. Currently, North Dakota's pandemic-related policies have ended (e.g. mask-wearing mandates, indoor capacity restrictions, and extended unemployment benefits), and the number of unemployed people in North Dakota has begun decreasing, albeit very slowly. 

With a view to helping regional workforce agencies, the North Dakota Regional Workforce Impact Program (RWIP) provides grants in North Dakota to design and implement innovative plans to address their region’s most demanding workforce challenges. The grant program will respond to the negative impacts the COVID-19 pandemic has had on workforce and industries by encouraging regions and communities to develop sustainable, innovative solutions to help businesses find workers, and help workers and jobseekers prepare for and connect to better, higher-quality and better paying jobs. The RWIP grant aims to offset the cost of local solutions that will have a regional impact. Funds may be provided as a resource to implement a long-term solution to permanently mitigate workforce participation issues. 

Purpose  of the Regional Workforce Impact Program

The goal of the Regional Workforce Impact Program is to empower locally led solutions to one of the state’s greatest challenges. Workforce needs vary by region throughout North Dakota, so a one size fits all approach is unrealistic and would not adequately address challenges in all parts of the state. By creating a regional funding mechanism to support workforce initiatives, local and regional partners have the opportunity to articulate their needs and the ability access funding to address them. The Department of Commerce aims to increase participation in the workforce statewide by equipping communities with resources to invest in initiatives that are catered to the needs of their region.  

Regions are defined as the eight planning regions in the program, although the impact of a project may extend beyond regions borders.  

Up to two bordering regions may work together to combine projects and funding resources. Devils Lake falls in Region 3 of the Program, a region located in the northeast central part of the state. This region has had a slightly declining population over 20 years, though it has remained relatively flat since about 2006. $1,000,000 dollars is the amount of the grant in Region3. 

Brad Barth, Executive Director, Forward Devils Lake Corporation stated that he was one of the participants in the Economic Developers group that was involved in the decision making process and selected 2 areas in which the grant dollars would be put to use.
The 1st area selected was to use approximately a half of the $1,000,000 dollars for grants to regional Child Care Centers to help retain and grow child care slots in our region.
The 2nd area selected was to use the other half of the grant for a Mobile Career Exploration Classroom and to put it on the road to our local and rural High Schools to help graduating youth and future graduates to understand what is available for Career options within Region 3. 

The mission of Forward Devils Lake is to foster and develop existing and new business and industry in the lake region! Contact us here for more information. 

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