Carter Mauch has always known he wanted to be a farmer.
Years ago his kindergarten teacher asked the class to draw a picture of what they wanted to be when they grew up. Mauch drew a map of his family’s farm.
“I always knew I wanted to farm,” Mauch told about 15 students gathered in Hankinson High School’s science room Friday, Nov. 22.
Mauch graduated from Hankinson High School 4 1/2 years ago and now works alongside his dad, Joe Mauch, on their rural Hankinson farm. He was among a panel of business leaders participating in Hankinson Commercial Club’s first community career fair.
The goal was to bring the high school students back home to Hankinson when they are ready to launch their own careers, said Bob Wurl, who is a member of both the Hankinson Commercial Club and Community Development Corporation.
The idea stemmed from being part of Gov. Doug Burgum’s Main Street Initiative. Those attending a summit listened to ideas to bolster their communities, one being a career fair, Wurl said.
The Nov. 22 career fair spread business leaders throughout the school’s classrooms in break-out sessions about health science, education and training, finance and business administration, marketing and hospitality, transportation, distribution and logistics, IT, manufacturing and law.
Workforce development is a challenge within the state, making Hankinson’s career fair so important, said Katie Ralston, manager of workforce project and programs with the North Dakota Department of Commerce, who was the keynote speaker that afternoon.
Today, there are more than 14,000 open jobs in North Dakota. State officials believe that number is more than double this amount because of the way jobs are tracked, Ralston said. She points to a hospital that may only advertise for one nurse with Job Service of North Dakota, but actually needs 50 registered nurses, Ralston said. It is one posting for RNs, so the state tracking system considers that as one job opening.
Closer to home, Richland County had 287 jobs open as of October, Ralston said. Production, transportation, materials, truck driver, installation, salesmen and healthcare are among the top 15 job openings both in Richland County and across the state. Many jobs do not require a bachelor’s degree, she told career fair participants.
“Some of you may be thinking, I don’t know what I want to do after high school. That’s OK. That’s why we are here today, to begin exploring some of the things you want to be doing, because that is so important,” Ralston said.
She told students she wished she had started exploring career opportunities while in middle or high school. Thinking she wanted to do early childhood education, she changed her major twice in college until coming upon communications, the eventual path she chose because her mission in life was to help others, she said.
Before starting work with the Commerce Department a month ago, Ralston taught STEM subjects at North Dakota State University, worked with workforce and economic development projects in Fargo and also ran a program called the Young Entrepreneurs Academy in Fargo that supported middle and high school students to help them launch and run businesses by re-imagining high school, she said.
Come home to Hankinson
Agriculture remains a leading industry in North Dakota.
Wheaton-Dumont Co-op Elevator’s Operations Manager Mat Brandenburger and Human Resources Manager Kristin Frisch stood beside Mauch to talk about jobs in agriculture as part of the career fair’s breakout sessions.
Some students were familiar with agricultural jobs after being questioned by Brandenburger and Frisch. Others were interested in how much money they could make if they worked at the elevator.
Starting out, a worker can make $40,000 a year with benefits, Brandenburger said. Each new skill brings an increase in pay. “You can make anywhere between $50,000 to half a million dollars. We have people who make more than your doctor,” he said, which drew smiles from those attending this breakout session.
The elevator is more than workers dumping grain. There are accounting, IT, administrative, maintenance positions and more, he said.
While there are not many vacancies, the elevator does keep applications on file for three years, he said.
“I know the purpose of this career fair is to get you to come back to Hankinson. But if you wanted to work for us, it doesn’t have to be Hankinson,” Brandenburger said, pointing out staff can live in Lidgerwood or close to any of the cooperative’s 16 locations in the tri-state area of North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota.