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BSC unveils plans for polytechnic education center

Published: Dec 01 2021
BSC unveils plans for polytechnic education center - Photo
On Nov. 15, 2021, North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum signed Senate Bill 2345 granting Bismarck State College $38 million from the state’s federal Rescue Plan coronavirus aid to advance its expanded mission as North Dakota’s Polytechnic Institution. Today, BSC along with legislative, industry, community and educational partners, held a press conference to outline the expanded polytechnic mission and the plans for a polytechnic education facility on the BSC campus.
“We are extremely appreciative of the level of confidence and commitment we’ve received from the governor and our legislative leaders to advance the ND State Board of Higher Education’s polytechnic mission at BSC,” says BSC President Doug Jensen. “North Dakota has tremendous natural assets that support economic growth in our state. The decision to invest in our polytechnic mission aligns perfectly with the state’s economic growth projects.” 

Jensen said BSC will break ground in 2022 on the region’s only polytechnic education facility. The state-of-the-art polytechnic center will feature project-based learning and nontraditional, hands-on collaborative working environments; flex labs where business and industry can partner on developing projects and ideas; and space for operating and building new programming and equipment and advancing applied research.

North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum praised the project’s concept of equipping students with workplace-ready skills, credentials and degrees driven by local demand for customized career pathways. He also commended BSC’s leadership for embracing a polytechnic focus that is responsive to the unstoppable forces of demographics, economics, technology and culture that are creating challenges for higher education institutions across the country.

“Education has to be more responsive to workforce needs and more responsive to the signals from the private sector,” Burgum said during the press conference. “This is far more than just a new building. This is a new pathway for higher education in North Dakota.”
BSC’s transition as the only polytechnic institution in the region began in late 2018 and has since commissioned  two studies with the National Coalition of Advanced Technology Centers (NCATC) and Gray Associates to determine the skills, technical talent and degree programs needed in high-priority occupations to impact and sustain business and industry development and economic growth.
“Our state’s investment in BSC is timely, substantial and provides the resources necessary to expand academic programs and educational services to address the trends and needs of our students, communities and industry workforce,” Jensen says. “North Dakota needs a mechanism to ensure we have the highly skilled workforce our public and private sector stakeholders need to continue to sustain and grow our economy. BSC is now positioned to build the talent pipeline that will impact the economy now and for many years into the future.” 
Dave Farnsworth, chair of BSC’s Business and Industry Leadership Team and North Dakota’s Workforce Development Council chair, along with Bismarck Mandan Chamber EDC President Brian Ritter both emphasized the need for workforce development throughout the state and said BSC's polytechnic mission is key to keeping up with North Dakota's growth.

"We are growing in ways we have not done in the past, which means we can't train the workforce in the same way," Ritter said.

North Dakota University System (NDUS) Chancellor Mark Hagerott added that BSC, as the only polytechnic institution in the NDUS, offers flexible, customized career pathways and new opportunities for applied research in western North Dakota that haven't existed until now.