Burgum, featured speakers emphasize essential skills, choice-ready graduates at Dickinson summit

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Jun. 9—DICKINSON — On Thursday, Gov. Doug Burgum and featured speakers addressed crowds at the 6th Annual Governor's Summit on Innovative Education. Burgum highlighted the importance of equipping students with the essential skills needed for life and to ensure that graduates are choice-ready for college, future careers or military service.

Nearly 300 educators, students, administrators and local community leaders, including Mayor Scott Decker and North Dakota Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner, attended the daylong summit at Dickinson Middle School, which was hosted for the first time on the Western Edge. In total, most than 500 people registered for the event, which included virtual attendees.

Burgum highlighted how funding proposed in his Accelerate ND plan and approved by the state Legislature last year is investing $88 million into career academies across North Dakota. The funding, which was awarded by the North Dakota State Board for Career and Technical Education and must be matched with local funds from public and private partners, includes $3.3 million for the

Southwest Area Career and Technical Education Academy

in Dickinson.

"School districts, colleges and their community and private-sector partners are joining forces to create workforce centers that are inclusive of community needs, drive industry degrees that fill workforce gaps, and support employability skills and adult learning," Burgum said. "These facilities have the potential to transform how education is delivered and received in our state."

The four-star retired Air Force Gen. Craig McKinley was the featured speaker for this year's summit, discussing how the essential skills for life and learning are critical to the success and well-being of every child. McKinley also shared his involvement with the National Commission on Social, Emotional and Academic Development report and how every adult can be a champion for kids.

Toward the end of the daylong event, McKinley and Burgum participated in a panel discussion with Joel Honeyman, vice president of global innovation for Doosan Bobcat North America, and Bismarck State College President Doug Jensen. The panel emphasized the importance of ensuring that high school graduates are choice-ready.

"We in every service — Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, National Guard — have a serious recruiting problem right now. We need upwards of 100,000 new members in the military every year and that's just to maintain us at current levels. We have one of the smallest active duty militaries in the history of the United States; much of it due, as you said this morning, to technological advances, artificial intelligence, we've got some of the greatest equipment in the world. But nevertheless, people make the military what it is today," McKinley said, adding that the military is a place where young people can seek out careers if they choose to.

Jensen touched on the mission of North Dakota's

Polytechnic Institution


"... As we start looking at the future, education is going to change. Our students are going to need experiential learning... They need hands-on experience. They need to touch things, feel things. That's what motivates them. They become intrinsically motivated when they can connect mentally and physically to something. When education becomes live and interactive, they basically rise to the opportunity," Jensen noted.

With last year's approved legislation, Burgum noted that it provided school districts new opportunities to implement personalized, competency-based education and capitalize on innovation to drive student results. This includes the "learn everywhere" bill, which allows graduation credits to be fulfilled through internships, apprenticeships, extracurriculars, clubs and other educational opportunities, and the "Pathways to Graduation" bill — the No. 1 recommendation provided by the Governor's Innovative Education Task Force — which provides students additional flexibility in meeting graduation requirements.

"We encourage more schools to take advantage of the flexibility and tools made available through recent legislation to create lifelong learners, address our workforce challenges and strengthen North Dakota's economy, communities and families," Burgum said. "We're deeply grateful to our state's educators, school board leaders, parents and community partners for their commitment to creating a world-class education system in North Dakota."

Each year, the Governor's Summit on Innovative Education provides a platform to bring stakeholders across North Dakota together to share existing ideas and practices, brainstorm and collaborate with one another to build on that foundation.

To view the summit in full, visit the Governor's Office website at