A county job development authority in the North Dakota oil patch has launched an initiative aimed at centralizing education programs to help build a regional workforce less susceptible to the boom-and-bust cycle of the oil industry.

Despite improved energy production in the state, more than one-third of the 3,000 job openings in northwestern North Dakota are not in the oil fields, according to Job Service North Dakota.
"There's help wanted in just about every window," she said. "There are tons and tons of jobs out here. Social work, retail, manufacturing, information technology, energy, customer service, teaching, agriculture," a spokeswoman said.

The McKenzie County Skills Initiative brings together job training programs, classes and services offered by the University of Mary, Williston State College, and the state-sponsored TrainND program and the North Dakota Small Business Development Center.

They're centralized at the new $57 million community center in the oil boom town of Watford City, and could help job-seekers with everything from computer skills to truck driving skills, said Daniel Stenberg, director of the McKenzie County Job Development Authority.

The initiative was unveiled during a job fair at which more than 50 companies advertised 500 jobs in a range of industries.

Development officials were looking to the event to get a better idea of how many people might be coming to the patch as oil production picks up again.