OUR VIEW: Plan to grow SD workforce is a good oneBusinesses may choose not to come to South Dakota out of fear there won’t be enough workers to fill jobs.
By: Editorial board, The Daily Republic
Less than a month ago, we heard that the James River Valley could be in trouble because a lack of workers in the region could stymie economic development.
During a presentation to the Mitchell Rotary Club, local development director Bryan Hisel said we’ve hit an economic wall, and that it will take a concerted effort — luring and training workers and the like — to successfully crash through that invisible but very real barrier.
This week, Gov. Dennis Daugaard essentially said the same thing during his annual State of the State address. The governor has asked lawmakers to support his plans to reduce a shortage of workers in various occupations in South Dakota. He wants to expand college programs to train more doctors, physicians’ assistants and health-care workers, as well as expand technical school programs to better churn out trained welders and machinists.
The problem is our unemployment rate. At present, South Dakota’s rate is 4.3 percent, which is about half the national average. On the surface, that’s an enviable number; deeper down, it may prevent future development because businesses may choose not to come to South Dakota out of fear there won’t be enough workers to fill jobs.
We agree that the state needs more doctors and various health-care workers. We suspect the towns in our region would agree, too.
We also maintain that more welders and trained, skilled workers are needed, which Daugaard mentioned during his speech.
He told lawmakers that South Dakota “does not have enough welders” and announced a proposed welding program at Mitchell Technical Institute as part of a larger workforce initiative called WINS — a 20-point, four-category plan to get more people in South Dakota trained and ready to work.
The MTI proposal is included in the category “Training for skilled jobs.”
It’s still early. Although MTI President Greg Von Wald acknowledged that he knew in advance Daugaard may mention MTI, Von Wald still has heard no concrete numbers on how the state plans to financially help MTI rev up its welding program. Maybe cash would come from the Governor’s Office of Economic Development.
If it happens, Von Wald said he hopes it’s a “hefty sum.”
So do we.
The Mitchell region needs skilled workers, and especially the kind who can weld on trailers and piece together suspensions. Our manufacturing sector depends on these workers, and according to Hisel, future economic development may be at stake.
We are very interested to see what becomes of the governor’s proposals, and especially those that directly affect Mitchell Technical Institute.