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Phil Davis

Phil Davis, customer service area manager for Job Service North Dakota in Bismarck, works with employers to fill job vacancies. Burleigh and Morton counties had more than 1,600 online job listings in January.

Most employers are able to fill an open position within one to three months. But 28 percent say it takes longer, according to the results of a statewide survey released by Job Service North Dakota.

“These survey results will be combined with feedback, data and evidence gained over several months of work by the Workforce Development Council,” Labor Commissioner Michelle Kommer said in a statement. “We plan to provide targeted workforce recommendations to the governor to inform the 2019-21 policy agenda.”

Kommer declined to elaborate on those possible recommendations until October.

But to her knowledge, Kommer said this is the first time a survey of this nature has been conducted on a statewide basis. Greater North Dakota Chamber President Arik Spencer said local and trade organizations have done similar polling but he thinks this effort is more comprehensive. 

What the survey, conducted by the North Dakota State University Center for Public Choice & Private Enterprise, found was: “Although most managers are eager to hire, they are slow to invest and devote resources to improve local talent."

About 53 percent of respondents said they were interested in work-based learning programs but only 38 percent were willing to contribute financially to workforce development.

"There are no clear public policy solutions to address this. However, survey results do show the potential for more private sector collaborations, including opportunities for business leaders to invest in youth engagement to attract high school and college students into their respective industries and dedicate resources to training for improved retention,” according to NDSU Center for the Study of Public Choice & Private Enterprise.

Of the survey respondents, 21 percent said competition from other employers in the state for a limited number of qualified candidates is their biggest barrier to hiring. Those employees being offered better wages elsewhere is a barrier to retention.

The state Workforce Development Council is also trying to tackle occupational licensing issues for the state’s more than 80 licensed occupations. The group received a $450,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to study the occupational licensing system with a goal of removing unnecessary barriers. The Knee Center for the Study of Occupational Regulation at St. Francis University in Loretto, Pa., has been contracted to conduct the three-year study, and early work will focus on high-demand occupations.

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Reach Jessica Holdman at 701-250-8261 or jessica.holdman@bismarcktribune.com

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Business Reporter