Committee Spotlight: Senate Workforce Development with Sen. Wobbema
Committees are starting to find their sea legs and working through initial bills. For most, it was easy to find the rhythm from last session. However, for one committee, they are starting with a clean slate. The Senate Workforce Development Committee is running its maiden voyage of work. A change was made to the Senate Industry, Business and Labor Committee, separating into two committees – Industry & Business and Workforce Development.
Last week we visited with Senator Doug Larsen, Chair of Industry and Business. This week we caught up with Senator Mike Wobbema, who is at the helm of the Workforce Committee. He is a GNDC 100% Chamber Champion – demonstrating his support of pro-business policies.
GNDC: Why was this committee created?
Sen. M. Wobbema: Senator Hogue made the change this year in response to the trends we are seeing. In combination with the Governor’s priorities, it was determined that there needs to be a legislative focus on the issues impacting our state’s growth. The genesis recognizes the need to focus on this business issue as North Dakotans may be having trouble keeping their doors open – not because the quality of their product, but because they do not have the staff to do the work. This committee is a deliberate approach toward working toward solutions.
What do you expect to see in your committee?
It’s very early in Session so I can only speculate the bills to come. These could include scholarships, apprenticeships, school loan repayments, red tape reduction, funding for business incentives – right now we are starting with rule changes for state board actions. We anticipate the policies to get meatier as more bills are dropped.
How has your committee started work?
Workforce in North Dakota is like a giant ball of fishing line – all tangled together and interwoven. Currently there are 30 ends sticking out, so it’s hard to know where to start! We are breaking down this system with education to provide context and doing so by bringing in different speakers. We have heard from ND Dept. of Commerce, Workforce Development Council, WSI, Job Service ND, University Systems, CTE, DPI as well as associations including ND Hospital Assoc, Long Term Care Assoc, and GNDC. This is providing a 30,000 foot overview to look at the problems that are out there from those within the systems and what solutions have been attempted so far.
Let’s talk about your committee, including two freshman, what are your committees' strengths?
Curiosity. There is no perception that they know all the problems or already have all the solutions, right now we are asking good questions. Additionally, it has a great diversity of experience in our world views, career pursuits, our backgrounds, how we think, and our goals.
We appreciate Senator Wobbema’s perspective in sitting down with us and backing North Dakota businesses.
GNDC perspective: We were excited to present to our membership about our organization and share the results of the Challey Institute Business Climate Survey. We will be following this committee’s work as workforce is one of our policy priorities. We know they are wading into occupational licensure but we are hoping they are able to put forth solutions specific to the intersection of workforce with education, attraction, retention, and childcare.