University of Mary receives $2 million for workforce development initiative

BISMARCK, N.D. - Workforce is one of the biggest needs in the state of North Dakota right now, and the University of Mary is getting a large chunk of change to help address the problem.

The university is receiving $2 million for what it's calling its workforce development initiative. It will be working with employers and advocates to see how higher education can help workforce needs.

Energy Transfer is staying true to its word, donating $2 million to the University of Mary to fund its new workforce development initiative. That's on top of $3 million it donated last year for the college's new school of engineering.

“We believe that University of Mary is the right place to steward this, to lead this effort to try to bring this forward,” Energy Transfer Executive Vice President Chris Curia said.

Officials say the goal of the initiative is to open communication channels between schools and employers across the state in order to address the needs of those businesses.

“Higher education needs to know exactly where and how we can help, for education to serve well, we need to know what the pain points are for industry, how and where we can engage,” University of Mary Workforce Development Strategist Brian Ott said.

University President Monsignor James Shea says the school had a record enrollment this year, but are attracting about the same number of North Dakota students, meaning the number of out-of-state students coming in is at an all-time high.

“We feel like it’s an obligation for us and an opportunity for us to convince those young men and women that North Dakota is a great place,” Shea said. “Not just to go to school but a great place to make a life, a great place to raise a family, a great place to leave a legacy.”

Officials say they're hoping to develop a new curriculum to use as a base, which could include anything from one day workshops to multi-year programs.

Officials tell us once they receive and analyze all the data they plan on sharing that information with other schools across the state.