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The Daily News - Mathern Focused on Education, Wages

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The Daily News - Mathern Focused on Education, Wages

Erin C. Hevern

Building up North Dakota's workforce begins with making sure students can get an education here that goes unrivaled.

Gubernatorial candidate Sen. Tim Mathern, Dem-NPL, Fargo, said in order to do that graduates should have incentive to stay in North Dakota in obtaining jobs right here where they got their education.

"Right now they'reall getting these reasons to leave and we have to turn that around," Mathern said. "We have to give graduates reasons to stay."

Mathern's college tuition assistance plan is the first step in doing that and building a North Dakota graduate workforce. His plan would reimburse the full cost of tuition at any state school for somebody who stays and works in North Dakota for eight years.

"This is do-able. This is the greatest return of our university education, college education, vocational education is a young person, a graduate deciding to stay in North Dakota," Mathern said. "Covering the full tuition cost for all students, as opposed to a gimmick plan that only covers a small part of the cost, is the kind of investment we need to make in our future."

Mathern's college tuition assistance plan begins as an $11 million program designed to invest in students and their skills they can bring to North Dakota businesses.

Mathern said he's had many of his opponents ask him, what if all graduates stay here?

"I don't see that as a problem at all," Mathern said. "In fact, if they don't stay here there is no money spent."

If graduates do stay, then the state benefits, he added, because North Dakota would have that many more workers.

"I think it sustains itself because of the benefit to the entire state and the economy," Mathern said.

A second step in getting North Dakota graduates to stay and invest in careers here is offering competitive wages. The current administration advertises North Dakota as the "low wage state" as a selling point to bring jobs here.

"I say we need to turn that around and say we've got good wages, we've got what I call family wages," Mathern said.

His plan is improve the state's economic development strategy and attract high-wage jobs in areas like new energy, agricultural science and technology.

For Mathern, rebuilding the state's workforce includes taking a look at what types of industry will last for 100 years.

"It's looking at ourselves and saying what is our base and how do we build that base for better jobs?," Mathern said.

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