Continuing The Workforce Marathon
A column by Gov. Dennis Daugaard:
Supplying our employers with needed workforce continues to be a major challenge for our state. Our low unemployment rate is a sign of economic strength, but it also means it’s difficult for employers to add more jobs even if they have the business to justify it.
Still, whenever we face a challenge, South Dakotans roll up their sleeves and work together to find a solution.
One year ago, I challenged all sectors – business, education and government – to work together to address workforce challenges. Using feedback and information gained from six regional workforce summits, we identified the key components of an effective workforce system.
First, we need to prepare our youth to reach their true potential by providing the tools, information and opportunities to guide them in their career decisions.
At the high school level, our Dual Credit Program has provided opportunities for juniors and seniors to enroll directly into college courses. This helps prepare them for their careers, and also provides credits toward both a high school diploma and a post-secondary degree. During the 2014-15 school year, nearly 2,000 students registered for 3,810 courses totaling 11,196 credit hours. Three out of every four earned A’s and B’s.
Second, employers need mechanisms to help them recruit and retain quality workers. Certainly, training is needed to help citizens fill the skilled jobs in our state. At the same time, though, we should recruit workers from outside our state, welcoming new South Dakotans and encouraging the return of those who have left our state.
Toward encouraging local communities to meet their own unique workforce needs, the Community Incentives Matching Program provided 1:1 grant dollars to help implement locally developed strategies.Fourteen grantees received a combined total of $1 million towards their sustainable local initiatives. Workforce strategies ranged from housing to internships and certification and training programs to English as a Second Language classes.
Lastly, the foundation of an effective workforce system must be built around data and a common language. The Department of Labor and Regulation is overhauling its entire SDWORKS job service system. When the overhaul is complete, to make decisions we will have real-time, skill-based supply and demand information, not just historical information. Additionally, the jobs database will use language describing jobs and job seekers in terms of actual skills and experiences, competencies, and preferences, not just job titles. This will allow job seekers, employers and education institutions to make better job matches by using common terminology.
Looking at our progress, many other programs included in our South Dakota Workforce Initiatives are also doing exceptionally well. Collaborative efforts to fill our workforce gaps have grown and been successful. The South Dakota Workforce Initiatives annual report is a testament to the progress we’ve made. Read it at SouthDakotaWins.com.
The challenge of supplying our employers with needed workforce cannot be overcome easily. This is a marathon, not a sprint, but we’re making progress.