Watford City's Future Bakken Area Skills Center (BASC)

Watford City is hopeful that it will be home to a one-of-a-kind facility that would “up-skill” area employers’ current workforce, create more opportunities for students, and provide a variety of services to the area.

Since 2016, economic development and industry partners have discussed a technical skills center at various levels.

“The Workforce Skills Initiative has met regularly for several years to discuss ways the school district, economic development, and local business and industry can collaborate at a higher level to better prepare students for post-secondary experiences as well as provide employer-specific training to assist with workforce needs across the region,” McKenzie County Public School District #1 Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Steven Holen said.

Three major areas identified are healthcare, building trades, and automation. These will be the major areas covered; each of these fields will have a lab/shop and classroom space.

Students would be able to take courses and learn more about careers that are currently available and learn directly from industry experts that are currently in the field.

“I am most excited to be able to get students matched up with careers that will fill a need in our community. We can serve the student by finding their interests, providing some training and access to companies that have positions to fill,” Watford City High School Principal, Jim Green said.

Employers would be able to take employees that they already have a relationship with and train them to fill open positions. Companies would also provide training sessions that identify potential employees and influence the curriculum of a specific course, to ensure that the teaching is relevant to the real world.

Many companies will pay for additional training or education in exchange for a commitment to work for the company. This also serves the community by filling a needed position and keeping graduates in the area. High school students would take classes during the day and community members would attend class during the evening.

“Not only will it serve to get high school students interested and prepared to start careers in these fields, but it will allow companies space to “up-skill” their current workforce. In addition, the BASC will include a public maker space, storage for mobile training trailers, a better home for the Corp of Discovery equipment, and potentially the Wolves Center Academy (Alternative High School),” Green added.

The benefits of the facility would go beyond Watford City, serving as a Career and Technology Education Regional Center. That means that the courses will be offered online to all schools in the northwest. Additionally, it will house mobile training trailers that can be rotated to area schools to serve their needs.

“For example, we could have a building trades trailer that has a ton of construction equipment, plumbing equipment, and electrical equipment. Instead of all area schools having to purchase their own equipment, we can rotate the trailer,” Green said.

The funding of the Center is reliant on the grant opportunity made available through the ND Legislative Assembly and the ND Career and Technical Education Department in which up to $10 million in a 50% match is available to grant applications eventually approved by the ND CTE Board of Directors. The grant awards are expected to take place in December.

The substantial matching grant and support of local political subdivisions, service groups, and business/industry partners would allow for the project to move forward and the building to begin construction in the Spring of 2022, followed by a fall of 2023 opening.

“This has been a long-awaited project that may be close to reality if the grant application is successful and awarded in the next few weeks,” Dr. Holen explained. “We appreciate all the support of our local and regional partners, including Williston State College and TrainND, to create a vision for the Center and to provide opportunities to K-12 and adult learners in our region.”

Green said, “The best thing about the BASC is that it serves our local schools, community, and industry partners. I have no doubt that this building will have a major impact on our entire region.”


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