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Governor's Column: Matching Students with Workforce Needs





Office of Gov. Dennis Daugaard
500 E. Capitol Ave.
Pierre, S.D. 57501
605-773-3212
www.sd.gov



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  Friday, July 7, 2017
CONTACT:  Tony Venhuizen or Kelsey Pritchard at 605-773-3212

EDITORS/NEWS DIRECTORS:  Please consider the following column from Gov. Dennis Daugaard. For an audio recording of the Governor’s weekly column, visit news.sd.gov/media.aspx and click on “Audio” under “Governor Dennis Daugaard.”


Matching Students with Workforce Needs

A column by Gov. Dennis Daugaard:

Last week, I was honored to begin a one-year term as chairman of the Western Governors Association. The WGA includes governors of 19 western states – those to the north and south of South Dakota, and every state to the west. Each WGA chair selects a policy initiative to focus on during the chair’s one-year term. Over the next 12 months I will focus on workforce development.

 

South Dakota has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation. Although this is a sign of a strong economy, it creates a challenge for our businesses. Many struggle to attract skilled workers in high-need fields such as engineering, information technology, healthcare and the construction trades. The shortage of skilled workers limits businesses’ ability to grow and serve more customers.

 

At the same time, too many young people are unaware of the opportunities that are available to them. More and more good jobs require training beyond a high school diploma. Despite this, only about two-thirds of South Dakota high school graduates go on to further education at a university or technical institute. Although South Dakota is one of the best in the nation in this regard, there is room for improvement.    

 

Among those who do pursue additional education after high school, many are unaware of which educational pathways lead to skills or credentials which are in demand and qualify a person for good jobs. We need to do a better job of career counseling. Of course, I want our young people to follow their dreams as they choose schools and careers, but I also want them to have their eyes open as they make those choices.

 

In recent weeks, I have met with a number of leaders of South Dakota school districts, to ask them how we can address this issue. They agreed that one approach is to offer more job-based training in high school. This can take the form of internships, apprenticeships or hands-on learning at the school.  

 

For example, in Yankton, many seniors are able to complete their classwork in the morning, so that they can work three hours each afternoon at a paid, work-based internship. In Harrisburg, the high school will begin to offer an “early college” model that allows students who complete their high school coursework to begin to take introductory college classes, using the state’s dual credit program. Madison High School has partnered with several large employers to create work experiences that award credits that transfer to a technical institute.

 

I fully support efforts like this, and I have told school superintendents that the state will do what it can to support these efforts, even if some state rules must be waived or modified. These programs give young people real work experience, so they are more prepared to enter the workforce. In many cases, students get credit toward their high school and technical institute or university education. And students get the opportunity to explore different occupations, to better identify a career that they might pursue after high school – or find that a career is not interesting or suitable for them.

 

Last month, I was among several governors who attended a White House roundtable discussion about workforce development. The discussion included President Trump, Ivanka Trump, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, U.S. Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta and U.S. Small Business Administration Director Linda McMahon. The governors present represented every part of the country, and we all face similar challenges. I appreciate the federal focus on this issue, and I hope the Western Governors Association initiative will also contribute. Still, in the end, these are issues that will be solved locally, as school leaders and business leaders join together to do what is right for their communities.

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