BISMARCK, ND— It didn’t take long for employers across the state to embrace the Workforce Development Initiative announced earlier in January and headquartered at the University of Mary. MBI Energy Services, the North Dakota Department of Corrections and Rehabilitations (DOCR) and McKenzie County Healthcare System, are the latest employers joining over 50 entities already partnered for workforce development training at the University of Mary.

Attracting new employees and helping retain and develop current workers is the immediate objective of the Workforce Development Initiative at Mary that has the endorsement of the Greater North Dakota Chamber, higher education and businesses across the state. Last August, North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum and Labor Commissioner Michelle Kommer released the results of a statewide workforce survey that identified key findings in their attempts to alleviating the workforce shortage in the state. According to the survey, 28 percent of job openings go unfilled for longer than three months, and 75 percent of hiring managers have no formal training budget.

“Workforce remains our No. 1 barrier to economic growth,” stated Lt. Governor Brent Sanford at the ND Energy Conference last October.

Through a partnership agreement with the University of Mary, employers like MBI, DOCR and McKenzie County Healthcare Systems are able to offer all their employees scholarships as a perk or benefit for workforce training. Another significant benefit through the Workforce Development Initiative at Mary, employees are able to take the courses for a specific skill-set in as few as 15 weeks and receive a certificate of completion without having to earn a degree. Years down the road if employees wish to get their degree, they can use those credits towards a degree completion.

MBI is the largest privately held energy services company in North Dakota, and one of the largest employers in our state’s oil-producing counties. Headquartered in Belfield, ND, with locations throughout the Bakken, MBI has partnered with the Workforce Training Initiative at Mary to help create a plan to identify a number of educational opportunities throughout their organization.

“With the competitive landscape for attracting and retaining a high quality workforce, one of our most important strategies going forward is to create a great experience for our people,” commented Patrick Bertagnolli, vice president of Human Resources at MBI Energy Services. “We are excited to team up with University of Mary as a community business partner to help us achieve that goal. Providing pathways for further development of our team through education and training opportunities is one way of creating a great experience for our workforce and their families. This partnership is the right fit for our company culture and one that we are confident will positively impact our growth and retention objectives.”

North Dakota Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation not only provides a wide spectrum of prison services, but also the management of adults and juveniles in communities across the state of North Dakota: ND State Penitentiary (Bismarck); James River Correctional Center (Jamestown); Missouri River Correctional Center (Bismarck); and Youth Correctional Center (Mandan). With these wide-range of facilities and the hundreds of employees needed to fulfill the demands of the positions, the University of Mary Workforce Initiative is strategically positioned to provide a variety of training solutions.

“Because the DOCR is a 24/7 entity and located throughout the state, we rely heavily on the University of Mary’s flexibility and very accommodating delivery platforms—online or face-to-face in the evenings, to meet the needs for shift changes and various work schedules of our employees,” said Dr. Penny Veit-Hetletved, director of education at the ND Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. “The DOCR is a very large employer with varying levels of education within the agency and employees are looking for a wide spectrum of workforce training—from business, all way to education and nursing courses.”

McKenzie County Healthcare Systems in Watford City provides a comprehensive line of services to western North Dakota that consists of McKenzie County Hospital, McKenzie County Rural Health Clinic, Good Shepherd Home, Horizon Assisted Living and the Connie Wold Wellness Center. Last June, McKenzie County Healthcare Systems also opened its new $76.3 million medical facility and will depend on institutions like University of Mary for retention needs in various fields for its employees.

“McKenzie County Healthcare Systems enthusiastically supports the University of Mary in their efforts to expand access to higher education and tailored training to Watford City and the surrounding areas,” said Michael Curtis, chief administrative officer at Mckenzie County Healthcare Systems. “As a growing healthcare system, attracting and retaining highly trained staff is inextricably linked to our success and our future.  We look forward to continuing our work with the University of Mary to help shape industry training to not only help our system but all organizations in the region.”

The new Workforce development Initiative at the University of Mary is made possible by the generous $2 million gift donated by Energy Transfer earlier this month and announced at a press conference.

The University of Mary is in the process of collaborating with marketing leaders, employers, higher education facilities, and the Greater North Dakota Chamber to conduct research among a minimum of 50 employers across the state, to determine how and where higher education can best serve workforce needs.

Once the research is concluded, which is expected to be completed in the late spring of 2019, the university will analyze the data and engage content-area experts to develop a curriculum—awarded on a part-time basis—that matches industry needs of the moment.

Employers interested in learning more or partnering with the Workforce Development Initiative can contact University of Mary’s Workforce Development Strategist, Brian Opp, at