NDSCS graduates are in high demand – a fact that was reinforced through the College’s most recent Graduate Placement Report, which identified that the College’s placement rate has risen to 99%. Often, those graduates were hired prior to graduation, and may have had their education sponsored by their employer. Seeking to fill workforce needs, and to encourage employees to return to their hometowns, many businesses and local economic development organizations have turned to student sponsorship programs.
Student sponsorships are an agreement between a student and an employer, and are designed to assist businesses with recruiting and retaining qualified employees for industries that are experiencing a workforce shortage. Sponsorships can take many forms, but often include agreements for tuition reimbursement, signing bonuses, tool purchases and/or cooperative education opportunities.
The NDSCS Career Services department has begun an initiative to help create connections between employers who would like to sponsor a student, and students who show potential and interest as a future employee of that company. By completing a brief online survey, students and businesses provide information the department uses to help match students with potential sponsors. Businesses who sponsor students may also be eligible to have their funds matched by the NDSCS Alumni Foundation Sponsorship Matching Grant.
“Many businesses have found student sponsorships to be a successful way of recruiting and retaining employees,” said NDSCS Director of Student Success and Career Services Lisa Wixo. “For our students, sponsorships can help reduce their education cost and provide employment after graduation. They also have the opportunity to gain relevant work experience and begin an employment relationship before they graduate from NDSCS, and in some cases, before they enroll.”
ComDel Innovation, Inc. in Wahpeton is one of those businesses who has begun sponsoring students at NDSCS. Chief Operations Officer Carter Hansen sees sponsorships as a tool to hire quality employees in a competitive workforce environment.
“We have a need for quality employees,” said Hansen. “We have had students intern with us, and felt they were a good fit with our company. We wanted those individuals to continue working with us so we decided to offer them a sponsorship.”
Another business that has discovered the benefits of sponsoring a student at NDSCS is Engine Rebuilders, Inc. in Oakes, N.D. Business Manager Kim Schmit found sponsorship to be a way to retain an employee who began working for the company during high school, and showed a good mechanical aptitude.
“We wanted to ‘grow our own’, and support employees who want to reside in the Oakes area after they graduate,” said Schmit. “The student continues to work for us during breaks, and the education NDSCS has provided has been great. We’d like to find more students who are interested and continue to provide sponsorships for their education.”
In some communities, businesses are finding support from local economic development organizations who provide matching funds for student sponsorships.
“Our first goal is to keep local youth in the area – and get them to come back – by aligning with business employment needs in skilled areas,” said Forward Devils Lake (N.D.) Executive Director Brad Barth. The organization recently launched an initiative to support local businesses who sponsor area students through tuition reimbursement. Launched this fall, the “20 by 20” Skilled Workforce Recruitment and Retention Program uses a combination of funds from the hiring business and from the Forward Devils Lake Corporation to reimburse 80% of a student’s expenses if the student commits to coming back to the region and working for the employer for three years after graduation. The program is also available for any individual who moves to the area and works for a sponsoring employer for three years.
The Carrington (N.D.) Job Development Authority (JDA) offers the Carrington Employee Education Sponsorship Grant to match a portion of funds that local businesses spend on sponsorships. The program is available for students studying designated trades and skills programs who intend to work for a business in the Carrington area immediately after completing their degree or certification. “We’ve had this program in place for about four years,” said Carrington Economic Developer Denise Schuchard. “It’s been a great tool for the businesses and students who have used it. We’d like to see the program expand and be utilized by even more businesses and students.”
Additional information about sponsorships and the NDSCS Alumni Foundation Sponsorship Matching Grant can be found online at ndscs.edu/sponsorships or by calling NDSCS Career Services at 701-671-3000.