In the small town of Dunseith, North Dakota, an innovative partnership that promised to revitalize the local economy and provide unique educational opportunities to high school students is now shrouded in uncertainty.
The ambitious plan to establish the first Level Two RV technician program at a high school in North America, a collaboration between Hoefer RV and Dunseith High School’s Career and Technology Education (CTE) center, has hit significant roadblocks, leaving the community at a crossroads.
The partnership, initially celebrated as a major workforce development step, aimed to create a direct pipeline for students to gain hands-on training and employment opportunities with Hoefer RV.
This initiative was not just an educational endeavor but a beacon of hope for Rolette County, which battles the highest unemployment rate in the state, hovering close to 9%.
However, the partnership’s future became uncertain following the departure of William Tuttle from Hoefer RV in July 2022. Tuttle’s subsequent employment as a business teacher at Dunseith High School, where his family also held positions, sparked controversy.
The situation was exacerbated by a lawsuit filed by Hoefer against Tuttle, which was later dismissed, fueling community skepticism and mistrust, according to The Bismarck Tribune.
The dissolution of this partnership represents more than a failed educational initiative; it signifies a missed opportunity in a region desperate for economic rejuvenation. The program was expected to offer students a $2 higher starting wage than the normal rate at Hoefer RV, a significant incentive in an area struggling with high unemployment.
The community’s reluctance to embrace Hoefer RV was partly due to the company’s legal history and past business controversies involving Charles Hoefer. These past issues, coupled with federal investigations at the facility, have fostered a deep-seated mistrust, overshadowing the potential benefits of the partnership.
Despite these setbacks, there is a glimmer of hope with the ongoing development of a new $16.9 million CTE center at Dunseith High School, set to fully open in 2024. Funded largely by federal relief funds, this center could still become a cornerstone for local educational and workforce development.