Gov. Daugaard stresses skills training at Workforce Initiative workshop

South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard launched the first workshop of the Western Governors’ Workforce Development Initiative by illuminating the changing job market and encouraging skills training. 

See slideshow at bottom of story

Governor Daugaard highlighted the change in the jobs market with statistics, noting that in 1973, 72% of the job force had a high school degree or less. 

By 2016, 39% of the job force had a high school degree or less. And since the recession, nearly all of the 11.6 million jobs created nationally were filled by workers with a college degree. In all, just 80,000 of those jobs went to those with a high school degree or less.

"So that illustrates why skills training is essential if you are one those workers without a degree and you want to be of value to an employer," said Gov. Daugaard. (Watch a video of his remarks.)

Later, in remarks during a press conference, the Governor suggested that career education should start as soon as middle school. "We need to showcase all of the jobs that are out there so students can see the entire spectrum, give them more 'taste-testing' examples so they can see what the job entails."

"Developing a workforce is a big issue in South Dakota," the governor told workshop attendees. "And I would wager it is a significant issue in all the western states from where you came."

The Workforce Development Initiative, the central policy initiative of Governor Daugaard’s term as WGA Chair, is designed to leverage the region’s best thinking to bridge the gap between prospective workers and employers in the West. The goal will be to create enhanced career opportunities for students, graduates and displaced workers to help build a more vibrant regional economy.

"WGA Chairs are taking on issues that are big, complicated and seemingly intractable – issues that cannot be fully or meaningfully addressed within a Chair’s one-year term of service," said Jim Ogsbury, WGA Executive Director, during his opening remarks. "The Chairs are setting the frame for multi-year work efforts designed to effect real, meaningful, positive and enduring change."

Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta also took part in the workshop. In a keynote, the Secretary called the partnership between state and federal government "critical" and asserted that the Administration respected the role of Governors as the leaders of their states and "recognizes that each state is different, and that what works for a large East Coast state may not work in the West."

The Secretary noted positive news about the western economy -- regional average unemployment rate is below 4% -- but added there are nearly 6 million job vacancies nationally (1.25 million in the West) and many of those employers can't find qualified applicants. To highlight the "skills gap" that is challenging business, at the press conference Secretary Acosta mentioned a conversation with a CEO who told him he could not fill 90-plus jobs for welders. The CEO estimated it was costing him an estimated $50 million annually. Watch a video of his remarks.

The Initiative concluded on Friday with a morning keynote by NASA Astronaut Michael Hopkins, followed by a field trip to the Lake Area Technical Institute (LATI) in Watertown, to learn about its technical education program that recently earned LATI the 2017 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence.

Here are links to videos of workshop sessions and keynotes:

Keynote, South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard: WGA Executive Director James D. Ogsbury framed the work of the Initiative and introduced Gov. Daugaard, who discussed the urgency to improve job skills training. 

Roundtable I: Aligning State Resources: Examined how states identify overall training needs and strategically deploy resources to meet them. Moderator: Matt Jordan, Director of Strategic Initiatives, Education Commission of the States; Erik Rose, Director of Workforce Initiatives and Information, Montana University System; Stephanie Veck, Director, Colorado Workforce Development Council; Wendi Secrist, Director of Business Outreach, Idaho Career and Technical Education; Bryan Wilson, State Policy Director, National Skills Coalition.

Roundtable II: Industry Leadership in Career Training: How employers are closing the skills gap in their industries through collaboration with training and educational institutions to establish new training programs. Moderator: Michael Cartney, President, Lake Area Technical Institute. Bruce Emmil, Dean of National Energy Center of Excellence, Bismarck State College; Todd Anawski, Government Affairs & Education Director, Home Builders Association of the Sioux Empire; Paul Harter, CEO, Aqua-Hot Heating Systems; Angelique Pruitt, Regional Manager, Idaho Power Company.

Case Studies: Attracting and Retaining Western Talent: Representatives from states in the region will discuss best practices for retaining talent in-state and attracting out-of-state job seekers. Tobi Cates, Wyoming Department of Workforce Services; Wayde Sick, Director of Workforce, North Dakota Department of Commerce; Diana VanderWoude, Vice President of the Build Dakota Scholarship Board. View North Dakota Department of Commerce presentation slidesView Build Dakota Scholarship Board presentation slides. 

Keynote, Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta: The Secretary of Labor addressed the administration's approach to working with the states and discussed issues such as business licensing.

Roundtable IV: Career Preparation in Education: Educational experts examine what is being done to provide relevant and valuable career preparation, ensuring that students pursue pathways to in-demand, well-paying jobs. Moderator: Bill Symonds, Director, Global Pathways Institute, Arizona State University; Barry Dunn, President, South Dakota State University; Rich Feller, Professor Emeritus, Colorado State University; Tiffany Sanderson, Director, Division of Career & Technical Education, South Dakota Department of Education; Cheri Tune, Regional Manager, ACT Work Ready Communities.

Presentation – Jobs for America’s Graduates: Laurie Phelan, President/CEO of Iowa JAG and Kim Claussen, Chief State Affiliate of JAG South Dakota will discuss Jobs for America’s Graduates, a state-based national non-profit organization dedicated to preventing dropouts among young people who are most at-risk. View presentation slides. 

Looking Around the Curve and Closing Remarks: A discussion among CEOs from South Dakota businesses on how career training must evolve to take advantage of changes in technology and western economies. Moderator: John Schnur, Executive Director, America Achieves; Larry Thompson, CEO, Vantage Point Solutions; Jim Scull, CEO, Scull Construction; Tim Rogelstad, President, Otter Tail Power Company.

Day 2

U.S. Air Force Colonel and NASA Astronaut Michael Hopkins opened the day with a keynote about his time on the International Space Station and the training that led to it.

Workshop participants then took a field trip to Watertown and the Lake Area Technical Institute, recent winner of the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. Opening remarks from President Mike Cartney centered on the school’s mission to connect students with high-demand careers, rather than just degrees. A tour of the campus showcased the school’s cutting-edge robotics, machining, nursing, law enforcement, agriculture, medical fire and rescue programs and more.

Jon Schnur, Executive Chairman of America Achieves, closed the two-day workshop with a keynote addressing the rapid pace of technology, and the need for technical education to serve this growing demand.

Watch all WGA videos and livestreams on WGA’s YouTube Channel.  

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