The Rugby Careers Development Authority welcomed Patrick Bertagnoli, Executive Director of Job Service North Dakota, for a one-day listening tour of rugby Tuesday, April 11.
The tour ended with a free one-hour performance for residents of Pierce County at Rugby High School’s Tilman Hofland Auditorium, where Bertagnoli shared stories and strategies for growing vibrant communities.
Bertagnoli focused his presentation on Watford City, where he worked in HR for an oil and gas company, then as Director of Economic Development, before taking up his role at JSND.
The former Montana resident admitted he wasn’t excited about moving to North Dakota when a friend approached him with the idea more than 10 years ago.
Born in Three Forks, Montana, with a population of 1,200, Bertagnoli was raised as the son of “Small town doctor, my only father since I was nine years old.”
Bertagnolli worked as a driver for United Parcel Service while in college. He said when he delivered packages to the small business, “I can tell which ones will work and which ones won’t.”
He gave rugby small business owners fame in the public. “You command my full respect for who you are and what you do,” He said.
Bertagnolli progressed from leadership to operations management for UPS, then managed human resources for the company in a multi-state region that includes North Dakota.
Along the way, he forms a relationship with Terry Mo, who has left UPS “To help his hometown of Watford, North Dakota with an oil boom.”
Moe invites Bertagnolli to join the business he started there as HR Director.
When Bertagnolli expressed reluctance to leave Montana and UPS, Moe invited him to visit Watford City, sending him a private jet.
Despite the first-class treatment, Bertagnoli said he stood firm in his refusal to move to another job and country.
“We go to a restaurant on Main Street, Outlaws, have lunch in the bar area, and talk about oil and gas,” Bertagnolli recalls. “And the owners of the restaurant came and introduced themselves to me, Aaron and Angie Pelton.”
“I thought that was cute,” He said. “But as we were leaving the restaurant, Angie, the owner of the restaurant, came up to me and said, ‘Pat, it was nice meeting you. I hope you will consider joining our community. We would like to be with you. “
“I tell people to this day, that’s what got me going,” He said.
“This community made me feel welcome, special, important, needed, and wanted,” He said. “He sealed the deal for me and moved my family to Watford City, North Dakota.”
Bertagnolli said Watford City can serve as a model for any North Dakota community, even if it’s not in the Oil Patch, like rugby is.
“Part of my message is really inspiring communities to get out of the bench, get in the game, get involved in the solution,” He said.
Bertagnolli shared stories of young people who have acted as champions for their communities.
Some, like two daughters of his Bismarck neighbors, fell into this role naturally.
He told of Emily, a three-year-old whose older sister had written him a note saying: “Won’t you be my neighbor?” When he and his wife moved to Bismarck for his government job.
Emily often donned a cape and called herself a superhero. Bertagnolli indicated that she would be graduating from high school in 15 years, and for the communities to thrive, they needed to find a role for “A superhero is like her.”
Watford City High School student Lydia, the subject of another story, has joined a group of student ambassadors to raise $12,000 through a silent auction after a fellow family lost their home in a fire.
In her senior year, Lydia joined the National Guard. Bertagnoli said. “I went to basic training after she graduated, and then transferred to Fort Sam Houston, which is where I graduated on February 18th of last year.”
Lydia later contacts Bertagnolli about a newspaper article from her hometown about suicide in veterans.
I saw they lost four veterans, she said. This is not acceptable to me. Do you know the people quoted in the article? “ Bertagnoli said.
“I said, ‘I’m sure of it, but I can do it,'” He remembers. “I have a whole team of Job Service North Dakota veterans, so let me hook you up.”
“So, we’re working behind the scenes with Lydia who wants to increase the impact on her community by talking to veterans and making sure they understand that no one quits,” she said. He said.
Bertagnoli said engaging young people in their communities not only helps keep them connected, but shapes their futures and careers.
Engaged students are also more likely to return to their communities after college or an apprenticeship, providing skills for the local workforce.
The efforts of Watford City students echoed the Community Building Program at Rugby High School, whose students won the Future Leaders Empowerment Award From Governor Doug Burgum in 2019.
building the society
Rugby High School students remain involved in their community and the local workforce through the school’s co-op program, which places students in local businesses for on-the-job training and job shadowing.
Bertagnolli commended the seven students from Rugby High School who were placed at Heart of America Medical Center, adding that the hospital makes sure staff are aware of high school activities and sporting events and encourages them to attend.
“Young people’s participation in society is crucial,” said Kevin Lear, who taught community building as a social studies teacher at Rugby High from 2018-2020.
Lear said he created the class and syllabus afterward “get the green light” From Superintendent Mike McNiff and Senior Director of Rugby Jared Bleeker.
“It was a great success,” Leir said. “The kids loved it. We had to do some really cool projects – projects that were visible to the community, projects that were led entirely by children and that impacted the community. “
“The biggest reason I say it’s so critical is that it allows students to participate in the community they’ve been raised in,” He said.
“I personally think that when they have that endorsement and are part of something bigger than themselves, like their community, you have a greater chance of coaxing that kid one day to go back and be a productive person in that community.”
“They can see how in a small community like rugby it doesn’t take a lot of people who volunteer their time or who help make great things happen,” he said. He said.
After spending two years focusing on his family bison farm business, Lear returned to education as principal of Little Flower Catholic Elementary School.
He said he plans to bring community involvement to the students there, using activities such as cleaning days or “Things that children can actually be involved in to develop our society and make it a better place for the citizens who live here,” He said.
“What we did in rugby really struck a chord, to show the value of our school system,” He said. “Our public school system in rugby is great. Having the ability to get kids out and get active in the community is good. It shows the community that our school system is engaged with the whole community as well.”
“I know the FACS (Family and Consumer Sciences) program with Ms. Lovesik does a lot of things to get kids in the community out of doing things, and Paula Trotiere is doing an amazing job with the job placement and job shadowing program through her department, too,” he added.
“He’s definitely not dead,” Leir said of the student community’s involvement in rugby.
Labor force statistics for Pierce County
Bertagnolli also shared rugby statistics compiled by the US Department of Labor.
The data showed the average age of Rugby residents to be around 44, compared to 30 at Watford City and 31 at Williston.
Twenty percent of the population of Pierce County comes from other states. Find out what attracts these residents to the area, Bertagnolli suggested, then encourage them to contact friends and neighbors from their home states to promote moving to Pierce County.
He discussed ways to include an aging population in the workforce, attract workers from job training programs for inmates leaving the correctional system and welcome immigrants fleeing countries such as Ukraine.
“We have the Workforce Innovation Opportunities Act,” he added. “We’ve upgraded close to 1,000 people through this program, and the top three professions we train people in, and pay to train, are CDL (commercial driver’s license), CNA, welders.
He said JSND offered to help the Heart of America Medical Center and Rugby Manufacturing with recruitment and training.
Bertagnolli has also talked about finding community heroes in rugby.
“I don’t think we have any community champions in rugby yet,” he said. He said. “There are 71 Community Champions across the state.”
JSND representatives visit the Rugby Heart of America Public Library at 201 3rd St. SW on the first Wednesday of every month from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m
For more information about programs available through the JSND, visit www.jobsnd.com or call 328-2825.