Nearly 40 percent of Bismarck State College students are enrolled in technical programs that ready them for some of the most in-demand careers available today.
"Our technical degrees are highly relevant thanks to the expertise of our faculty and the advisory boards that ensure our students are not just job-ready, but future ready. In addition to the technical skills our graduates acquire, they are equally steeped in the ability to work on a team, to communicate effectively, and to think critically," says Larry C. Skogen, BSC President.
The following profiles showcase BSC students and graduates in five of the fastest growing industries in the United States as reported by the U.S. Labor Department.
Wind Turbine Technician: #1 Fastest Growing Industry
Lucas Montag's favorite place in the world is the top of a wind tower. The view from such a lofty vantage point makes the 300-foot ladder climb worth it. "Once you go out and stand on top of the tower, nothing beats that."
It's a view the recent BSC graduate will enjoy regularly now. With a degree in Energy Services and Renewable Technician
in hand, he'll return to NextEra Energy for one more stint as an intern before transitioning into a full-time role.
Montag first looked to the skies right after high school during a semester at Northland Community College studying aviation electronics. But aviation wasn't a fit. About that time, Montag's identical twin brother was studying win at Lake Region State College and got an internship at NextEra.
"Since they liked him so much they hired me, too. After working there for the summer...I decided to dive in," Montag says.
He enrolled at BSC, where he learned the theory behind the hands-on work he practiced on the job.
"Coming here I learned a lot about electrical theory and troubleshooting - what makes sense and doesn't. I could see the components inside the wind towers, and get my hands on them. We spent a lot of time discussing electrical - hydraulics, programmable logic controllers and lots of safety. This was a better step forward. I know more about things that would be tougher to learn on the job."
He likes the idea of climbing those wind tower ladders for a long time to come, but BSC also helped him find a route to the figurative ladders available to him. Montag is working on his BAS in Energy Management online, as he works alongside his brother.
"I think the industry is really a good one, and I want to be able to move up someday," he says. The brothers will share an apartment near the NextEra Ashtabula site in Hope, N.D., not far from their hometown of Finley.
Web Developer: #23 Fastest Growing Industry
Erin Schwengler knew she wasn't ready for college right out of high school. But, it wasn't until her office job showed her what she did not want to do for a living that she figured out what she did want.
Supported by her employer, Schwengler earned a Computer Science degree from BSC in her mid-twenties. Today she's the Interactive Director at Odney, an advertising agency in Bismarck.
"I'd always been strong in math, and computer science follows that. I appreciate the problem solving. You write the code and there's the solution," she says.
An art background helps ensure that not only does the backend of a website work, the site is also aesthetically pleasing and user friendly.
She says the small BSC campus, and strong relationships she formed there were valuable as an older student. "I was married and pregnant by the time I graduated. All the way through, I felt supported. I wasn't just another kid, people knew me personally."
Schwengler is a proponent for her field. "With computer science you are always learning. In the computer industry, technology is continuously changing. We are constantly learning new apps or programming languages. Day-to-day is never the same, and always challenging. You'll never get bored. And there's always a need for application developers and programmers."
Through Odney, Schwengler has worked on BSC's website over the years, allowing her to bring her skills back to the place she first learned them.
Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technicians: #75 Fastest Growing Industry
Anastasia (Asia) Baumann-Vellenga always liked medicine and science, but says she "stumbled upon" her chosen career in medical laboratory technology. She was studying biology at Minnesota State University Moorhead when she learned about BSC's Medical Laboratory Technician (MLT) program. She transferred to BSC after her freshman year.
"I fell in love with it. What we do behind the scenes in the hospital makes a huge difference in healthcare. Eighty percent of healthcare decisions rely upon the lab work...we're figuring out what's wrong and how to make people better."
Her current internship at Sanford Health in Bismarck verified her career choice, Baumann-Vellenga says. "My internship solidified that this job was for me. When you are in class learning about what you do, then you get to the workplace and it clicks. I got it. I love it and everyone at the hospital is awesome to work with."
Some of the medical lab staff at Sanford are also MLT faculty at BSC and this creates a strong bridge between the classroom and the workplace. "One of the biggest benefits I think is that we not only have those instructors in class, when we do our internships we go to Sanford and work with them in the lab. They know what we need educationally. The program is awesome."
Baumann-Vellenga had no trouble finding a job. She starts at Sanford in Fargo on June 12. She's excited about her educational and professional future. She intends to go on to the University of North Dakota after working for a while to get her four-year degree, knowing all of her credits and classes will transfer easily.
"The nice thing about working in the lab is that there's always a way to keep moving up - you can be a PA [physician's assistant] or a pathologist. That's completely possible with this.
Thoughts from the boss
Amanda Sagsveen, Sanford Bismarck's Director of Laboratory Operations says her organization will "hire as many [BSC] graduates as we can."
She describes medical lab technology as a field where the demand is great and the opportunities are expanding.
"In order to provide the best possible care, you need the lab. [Lab techs] affect everyone else's ability to do their job and give the best possible care to patients. If we do our job well, they do their job well."
She says the lab is a great outlet for those interested in the medical field, but not in direct patient care. "There's a huge variety of work within the lab. You can explore microbiology, blood bank, Chemistry, hematology and more."
Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT) and Paramedics: #29 Fastest Growing Industry
At age 20, Tanner Arthaud wanted to better understand what was going on in the emergency room where he was a certified nursing assistant, so he took an EMT class from BSC, and found he much preferred the action he found there.
"It's more interesting to be where emergencies happen," he says. He graduated from the Paramedic Technology Program at BSC in 2016. Employed by Metro Area Ambulance in Bismarck, he likes the daily challenges he sees in emergency services.
"In EMS, we have two, sometimes three people on call. It's us, the firefighters and police. You're on your own making decisions about patient care. You're the provider treating patients in different situations."
He learned about those situations and more at BSC where he was "over prepared" for the job.
"[BSC instructors] go above and beyond. They are really helpful and make sure you understand. It's fast-paced and challenging, because they understand how important it is to be properly educated."
In addition to education, being an EMT calls for calm under pressure, and a dark sense of humor. "The biggest part is learning to cope with everything that happens. Instead of tragic, we look for humor. If you were to look at only the terrible things, you couldn't do it."
He says some days the good is hard to find. On those days knowing "we did everything we could do for the patient" is enough.
Surgical Technologists: #103 Fastest Growing Industry
During her final week of clinicals Jessica Faul couldn't stop grinning. "I'm graduating May 12 and I'm really excited."
Before she graduated Faul had to take her certification exam - and the pressure was on. The class of 2016 was the eighth BSC Surgical Technologist class in a row to achieve a 100% pass rate in the certification.
She's ready, and already has a job lined up. The program's reputation, and the high demand for surgical technologists made her job hunt easy. Faul starts work at Sanford in Fargo in June.
"There are tons of job openings. In Fargo they are desperate for [surg techs]; Minot came down and offered us jobs. I got a job offer from every place I applied."
All her classmates were hired prior to graduation, most have jobs in the Bismarck-Mandan area. "There's a lot of opportunity as soon as we're done to get going," Faul says.
Surgical technology is a field the Wahpeton native didn't know she wanted to enter upon graduating high school two years ago. "My cousin became one and told me all about it. So I looked for programs and found BSC."
Throughout her training, and particularly during her clinical rotation, Faul discovered she loved the novelty and urgency of the work.
In surgery she is up close and personal - providing instruments to the surgeon, ensuring a sterile environment and engaging in the life and death decisions in the surgical suite.
"Every day it's something new, you have to know a lot. It was a lot to learn in a short time, but now it's a great place to start. I could become a first assistant, or a nurse. I can branch out from here."
During her orientation this summer, she'll spend time on different teams. She's hoping to specialize in cardiovascular surgery.
"I like the different instruments, and seeing a live beating human heart. Getting to experience that and be right up next to the surgeon and part of that team - I know that I'm helping the person having surgery."