Improving Quality of Life

Quality of life can be improved through implementing effective, adaptable, community-focused, and coordinated education and workforce development systems that produce a well-educated, highly skilled workforce that respond to employers’ needs in a rapidly changing economy.

Employment plays a critical role in the lives of residents, families, and communities. Equally important, it provides the pathway to career-building and allows community members the opportunity to achieve important life goals and for engagement in their community. One key to a vibrant and successful workforce is education and skilled labor certification, which provides social, civic, and personal development in addition to workforce development. As an economy changes and grows, the demand for workers prepared at all educational levels will continue to grow. Therefore, developing skilled workers that match employers’ needs, in a continuously changing and diverse economy, requires strategic investments in education and workforce development programs, which must be coordinated and aligned with the economic development of the community. 

What's happening

  • The six-year graduation rate from 4-year institutions in North Dakota (60.4 %) was below the national average (64.6 %) in 2021. North Dakota ranked 28th for this completion rate among all states in 2021.
  • For 2-year institutions, North Dakota's three-year graduation rate (45.0%) compared to the national average in 2021 (36.8 %); North Dakota ranked 20th for this completion rate among all states in 2021.
  • In North Dakota, 31.8 percent of the population who are 25 years and older had a bachelor's degree or higher (2022), among residents ages 25 to 34, 38.7 percent had at least a bachelor's degree in 2022.
  • The proportion of adults (age 16-64) working in North Dakota was 79.2 percent in 2022. The proportion of adults working within ND varies by counties. Foster County had the highest proportion of adults working (86.0 %) and Sioux County had the lowest proportion of adults working (41.2%) in North Dakota.

Making connections

Investment in early childhood and later in education helps to ensure a skilled and knowledgeable workforce. Providing access to high-quality education and postsecondary certification will expand economic opportunity for individuals and families. Research suggests that individuals with higher levels of education are better able to compete for choice jobs and more likely to obtain positions with better working conditions, benefits, and opportunities for advancement. 
More educated and skilled workers bring many benefits to the organizations that employ them. Many employees with additional education are better equipped to adapt to new situations, can learn new tasks and skills more easily, and have the capacity to use a wider range of technologies and sophisticated equipment, which provides the opportunity to improve productivity. Furthermore, the advantages of having a highly educated and skilled workforce benefits all, individuals, businesses, the local community, and the economy as a whole.
Education andskilled labor certification is an investment in the future of the state, because workers with higher incomes contribute more through taxes over the course of their lifetimes. Higher incomes are also associated with better educational outcomes for children of the employed, improved mental and physical health outcomes, in addition to many other individual, family, and community advantages.


Vision West: Leading, Educating, and Collaborating to Mobilize the 19 Western North Dakota Counties Towards Resilience and Prosperity

"Job loss is one of the qualifying factors for Economic Development Administration (EDA) grants. Since the “shale play” (i.e., rock formations consisting of consolidated mud or clay that contain significant accumulations of natural gas) began in the Bakken, it has been very difficult for any of the western 19 counties to qualify for EDA grants. We all knew that jobs have been steadily declining in the region since the downturn began, but we did not have good, quality data to support what we knew. So, once again we turned to ND Compass’ data and information, and once again, ND Compass came through for Vision West ND."


ND Head Start Association: Vibrant Economy Leads to Workforce Shortages - Head Start Programs Statewide Are Feeling the Impact

"While North Dakota has been enjoying economic strength and prosperity, the state is also struggling with labor shortages... Specifically, among the programs that are struggling due to worker shortages are North Dakota’s Head Start Programs. Head Start, through agencies in local communities, helps young children from low-income families become ready for school, families ready to support their children's learning, and schools ready for the children who enter their doors."

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Learn more about the North Dakota Community Action Partnership

North Dakota Compass

Center for Social Research
North Dakota State University

Compass created by:
Wilder Research

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