Job Service North Dakota reports there are more than 18,000 open jobs statewide — and those are just the ones posted online. There’s likely closer to 30,000 open positions.

While that can be a hiring headache for some employers, it can be an opportunity for students pursuing career and technical education options like those offered at Bismarck State College.

“The training and education we’re providing will prepare people for those high demand occupations,” Bismarck State College President Douglas Jensen said.

Jensen says their polytechnic institute, the only of its kind in the region, will help keep skilled workers in North Dakota.

The legislature recently approved $38 million for BSC to expand that institute to fill industry needs.

“Post-COVID, one of the big challenges we’re going to face is not capital for business to expand, but it’s going to be talent,” Jensen said.

Cultivating that talent doesn’t always need a four-year degree. Those at the North Dakota Department of Career and Technical Education say CTE is a growing option for lots of high schoolers.

“CTE is a workforce pathway to get students into the occupations that we need filled, very lucrative, very successful occupations,” Department Director Wayde Sick said.

Sick says about 70 percent of high schoolers have taken at least one CTE course.

Roughly a third of those, 8,129, have taken more than one course in the same field.

“That’s an important stat or data piece because theoretically if a student is a concentrator, chances are they are on that pathway to follow that career into the workforce,” Sick said.

During the state’s special legislative session, lawmakers approved $88 million in matching funds for career centers.

Alison Orgaard sees the benefit of career and technical education every day. For the last eight years, she’s been a career counselor in the southeastern part of the state.

“My students are educated and mindful about how expensive education is, so they want to find an option where they can make some money, not take on a ton of debt and have a good career that they enjoy doing,” Orgaard said.

Orgaard says there’s also a generation of retiring tradesmen, and as the need for workers grows, so does the paycheck, making some jobs more attractive now than before.

“Everyone needs a plumber, so where are we preparing our students to go into those careers and find it attractive and find it a valuable place to spend their career?” Orgaard said.

Those at Job Service North Dakota say although employers might be struggling to fill positions, there’s never been a better time to apply for a job.

“There are just oodles of opportunities out there that we urge people to take advantage of, come and talk to us, come and visit your local workforce center,” Job Service North Dakota Workforce Services Director Phil Davis said.

Davis says Job Service North Dakota is hosting a virtual job fair next week with more than 110 employers signed up. To check out Job Service North Dakota and that job fair, head here.

During the special session, lawmakers also approved $15 million for expanding workforce development incentive grants, and $5 million for technical skills training grants.