INFORUM: Plan B: Skip the degree: Skills training available for those opting against degrees

By Angie Wieck

The notion that a four-year degree is the best way to ensure job security, good pay and overall job satisfaction has taken a hit in recent years.

As tuition costs and subsequent student loan debt continue to rise, many students are opting for short-term job training instead.

A number of noncredit programs ranging from welding to truck driving to customer service and computer skills are available at North Dakota State College of Science campuses in Fargo and Wahpeton as well as campuses of Minnesota State Community and Technical College.

Patty Kline, dean of outreach for the trainND Southeast program at NDSCS, said the college has been expanding these programs in recent years in order to help businesses gain skilled employees and move them up the ladder.

In addition to recent high school graduates, she said the programs appeal to nontraditional students who may already be working and want to improve their job skills or pursue a different career.

In some cases, the cost of these programs may even be covered by Job Service. The federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act funds short-term training for youth, adults and adult dislocated workers who are struggling with unemployment and meet low-income guidelines.

“If you’re looking for someone to pay your kid’s way through college, this isn’t the answer,” said Fargo Job Service office manager Carey Fry. “But if you are a young adult struggling in a no-end job and you’re supporting yourself, we are the answer for that.”

Customized training

Besides open enrollment sessions for students, both colleges offer customized training for employers as well.

“We try to meet the customers’ needs so when they want it, where they want it, how they want it, we’ll be there,” Kline said. “We’ll do classes for as few as two people if that’s what they want.”

G.L. Tucker, dean of custom training services at MSCTC, said he sees customized training as the way of the future. The college has invested in a mobile welding lab they can bring to individual job sites. Officials also hope to purchase a CDL (commercial driver’s license) training trailer that has truck driving simulators.

Program details

A number of training opportunities are available, but programs for certified nursing assistants, welders and truck drivers are three of the most popular with students and employers.

Listed below are specifics about course length, cost, average starting wages in North Dakota and Minnesota as well as the job outlook for those careers.

Minnesota wage numbers were taken from the 2014 MnCareers Regional Supplement for West Central Minnesota, compiled by the Minnesota Department of Economic Development.

North Dakota numbers were taken from the 2013 Employment and Wages by Occupation provided by Job Service ND.

Certified Nursing Assistant

NDSCS: A six-week program that includes classroom, lab and clinical experience will be held evenings from 5 to 10 starting Monday and again Oct. 20. The course is $500. A $120 testing fee is required as well. 
MSCTC: Day and evening sessions are available for this 77-hour program that includes 55 hours in the classroom and lab, two hours of clinical orientation and 20 hours of clinicals. Daytime sessions begin Sept. 22 and evening sessions start Oct. 15. The cost is $495 with a separate testing fee of $160. 

The hourly wage for a CNA ranges from $10.40 to $12.60 in Minnesota and $11.28 to $14.60 in North Dakota.


NDSCS: Officials with trainND are planning open enrollment sessions this fall in 40-, 80- and 120-hour increments. Cost will depend on the program length.
MSCTC: The fall and winter course times have not yet been announced. Last year, MSCTC offered 120-hour programs for $2,200 and 160-hour programs for $2,950. 

The hourly wage for a welder ranges from $13.90 to $18.30 in Minnesota and $15.48 to $27.56 in North Dakota.

CDL (truck driver)

NDSCS: The next session of trainND’s CDL training begins Sept. 29. The six-week training program includes classroom and behind-the-wheel training. It also includes the use of a truck during testing at Department of Motor Vehicle offices in Moorhead and Fargo. The cost is $4,500. License fees are required at the time of testing as well.

The hourly wage for a truck driver ranges from $15.20 to $21.10 in Minnesota and $17.01 to $25.81 in North Dakota.

There is a great demand for all three occupations in the region.

According to an August online job openings report, this region of North Dakota reported 115 health care support openings and had only 81 active resumes on hand. That means if every job seeker were placed, there would still be 34 open positions.

For production, which includes welding, there are 444 open positions and just 257 active resumes. There are 660 open transportation and material moving positions and only 129 active resumes. 

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