- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 9, 2014

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - The federal Labor Department is giving nearly $10 million to four North Dakota colleges to support technical programs tied to the energy, transportation and construction fields.

The money going to Bismarck State, Williston State, Sitting Bull College and Turtle Mountain Community College is the second award to the Training for Regional Energy in North Dakota Consortium, which includes partnerships with local employers. The TREND Consortium effort is aimed at developing and expanding programs to train people for in-demand jobs, particularly in the state’s booming energy industry.

The Labor Department provided the initial grant of $14.6 million in 2012. The money is provided through the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training program, a four-year, $2 billion federal effort to help train workers for in-demand jobs.

In the past two years, more than 1,000 students have participated in North Dakota programs that received funding through the grant, according to consortium director Emily McKay. It’s difficult to say how many of them might have taken part in those programs anyway, she said, but all have benefited in some way, whether through better technology in the classroom or expanded program offerings.

Officials are tracking the success of students in affected programs, but data is incomplete, McKay said.

The latest awards were announced Tuesday. Bismarck State, which is leading the North Dakota project, is getting $4.1 million. Turtle Mountain is getting $2.1 million, Williston State $2 million and Sitting Bull $1.7 million. The money will go toward programs including short-term classes and career planning for people who are unemployed, underemployed, or working but trying to get a better job.

“BSC’s target programs include energy programs that are already established,” McKay said. “The grant provides an opportunity to expand and enhance lab equipment and simulation and attract more students to energy programs.”

Partners in the project include the North Dakota Petroleum Council, Tesoro, WBI Energy, Murex Petroleum, Bakken Safety Training, Basin Electric Power Cooperative, Montana-Dakota Utilities, and a number of construction and equipment businesses.

WBI Energy and Montana-Dakota Utilities both are subsidiaries of Bismarck-based MDU Resources Group. The company has used the TREND Consortium to find some of the 90 workers it needs for its recently completed $350 million Dakota Prairie Refinery at Dickinson, spokesman Rick Matteson said.

“They’ve expanded programs that have really provided a fantastic training ground” for oil patch workers, he said.

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Follow Blake Nicholson on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/NicholsonBlake

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