GRAND FORKS — North Dakota has 4,300 job openings in the field of health care, according to the director of Grand Forks’ workforce center.
Dustin Hillebrand, manager of the Grand Forks workforce center, said there are 932 health care-related job openings in the region. He said the number of job openings has been high for several years, but the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated shortages.
“Having a lot of health care openings isn’t new to the post-pandemic workforce,” Hillebrand said. “We had a strong demand for health care professionals before COVID, and the pandemic only increased the need.”
Hillebrand attributes the growing number of job openings to a combination of resignations and retirements during the pandemic, as well as the continued growth of medical providers such as Altru and Sanford.
“As hospital groups grow, they need to fill positions,” Hillebrand said. “There are also elder-care homes that need health care professionals. The North Dakota Department of Health has openings. People have left the profession during the pandemic, and many in the 65-and-over demographic have retired. Those positions need to be replaced.”
Many of the openings — including licensed practical nurses, certified nursing assistants and surgical technicians — entail vocational training that can be completed in two years or less, according to Hillebrand.
Hillebrand’s office is responsible for coordinating workforce development programs in the state’s fourth region, encompassing Grand Forks, Walsh, Nelson and Pembina counties. A major component of the workforce center’s mission is to place students and back-to-school adults into area colleges offering training in these careers. This is accomplished through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), a federally funded program providing tuition assistance for career training in occupations considered in high demand.
According to Job Service North Dakota, the workforce center’s parent agency, all of the aforementioned nursing and technician careers are on the state’s list of in-demand occupations.
Hillebrand said local technical colleges and health care groups have myriad programs from which to choose.
“Northland Community and Technical College has programs for both surgical and radiology technicians,” Hillebrand said. “If applicants qualify for the WIOA program, we can certainly help them with tuition. Unity Medical Center in Grafton is also working with Lake Region State College in Devil’s Lake to provide nursing apprenticeships.”
Hillebrand’s office also is working with Find the Good Life campaign, an initiative encouraging skilled professionals to move to North Dakota.
“They will be promoting our job fair to individuals who have contacted them and expressed interest in moving here,” he said. “Participants who register for the job fair will have the opportunity to communicate with a variety of employers.”