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Can North Dakota Fuel The Job Needs of Growing Bio-Fuel Industry?

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 By Debbie Aasen/Eric Mack, Contact
March 13, 2007

The pay is good. The benefits are attractive too. So why aren't more high school graduates going into skilled trades? Terry Curl with Boilermakers Local 647 is trying to answer that question. He says with the biodiesel and ethanol industries pushing the construction of new plants across the state, there's going to be a bigger demand for many skilled workers, including pipe fitters, sheet metal workers, ironworkers and electricians.

"You know there's actually four or five brand new plants proposed for North Dakota -- power plants -- plus all of the pollution control stuff that these power plants have to have in compliance by 2011. So you stir all of that in this area, and there's going to be a shortage."

New bio-fuel plants are under construction or have been proposed in Minot, Richardton, Underwood, Hankinson, and Moorhead.

Curl, who also sits on the advisory board for Bismarck High School, suggests school counselors could help by sharing these jobs with their students. He says not every student is bound for college, and trades are one way to find a good-paying job.

"There's a lot of kids that fall through the cracks, either because they can't afford to go to college, or they don't realize that some of these trades are out there."

Though there's not a shortage of skilled workers right now, Curl says it won't be long before there is one.

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