What is South Dakota Doing to Close the Skills Gap?

Did you know that 1 in every 10 jobs in South Dakota is in the manufacturing industry? The manufacturing industry is a vital economic contributor to our state and makes up a good portion of our GDP. It offers good wages, opportunities for advancement, and on-the-job training.

The problem is as a nation, our population growth is slowing while job growth continues to accelerate.

A 2018 study by Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute predicts that in the next decade the U.S. manufacturing industry will have a 2.4 million-worker shortage. Without adequate workers, manufacturers are limited in their ability to enter into new markets and develop new products. Many are unable to increase their production levels to satisfy customer demands if they cannot fill their open positions.

This problem raises an important question. What is the manufacturing industry doing to address this gap, and more specifically what can South Dakota do to fill our positions?

In the short-term, many manufacturers have filled their urgent positions by offering higher wages and allowing for greater flexibility in the hiring process. However, this does not always get employees to stay. Some jump from job to job to receive attractive sign-on bonuses and extra pay. Although these tactics can be used as a Band-Aid in the short-term, they do not solve the shortage problem.

Long-term approaches require more time and support. Some strategies executives are using to supplement their workforce include tapping into contingent or part-time workers, adapting automation to handle routine processes, developing in-house training programs, and creating strong public-private partnerships with education institutions and industry associations to gain access to workforce pools.

How are we combating the shortage issues in South Dakota?

Below is a list of programs in our state designed to build, attract, and support the future manufacturing workforce.

Build Dakota Scholarship-- recipients can receive a full-ride scholarship to any technical school in South Dakota if he or she pursues a high-demand career in welding or precision manufacturing and commits to working in South Dakota for three years after graduation.

Start Today South Dakota -- an apprenticeship program with opportunities in construction and commercial trades for students who want valuable job skills and don’t necessarily want the traditional college experience.

Dakota Seeds Program --a program developed through GOED and EPCOR to promote internships. The program can provide up to 50% of the high school or post-secondary intern’s wages. Manufacturing is an industry that can benefit from the program.

“What’s So Cool About Manufacturing?” Contest – a fun, engaging video contest hosted by SDMTS for middle school students to learn more about manufacturing and the careers available in South Dakota

JA Inspire - is a career-fair event filled with learning experiences and hands-on activities to engage and attract students. Last year, MTS brought a robotic arm for students to program to make hot chocolate.

South Dakota Work of Week – is an organized state effort allowing 10th-grade students opportunities to job shadow, tour businesses, and hear from guest speakers to learn more about specific industries, including manufacturing

Talent Draft Day- is designed to connect students pursuing high-demand careers with the schools and businesses that want to work with them. This year's hybrid event is coming up November 13th from 9:00 - 4:00 p.m.

Your Future Stem - a program for middle school students that presents job industries poised for growth to give students an understanding of different educational and career pathways.

Career & Technical Academy - provides high school students with industry experience before postsecondary education to help guide them in their career paths. Classes supporting the manufacturing industry include STEM, Robotics, and Welding.

Yankton Manufacturing & Entrepreneurial Academy - a two week summer course giving students the opportunity to learn how to weld, use computer-aided drafting, and 3D printers. Throughout the weeks, students tour local manufacturing plants, meet entrepreneurs, and create a business plan for their welded product. At the end, students form teams and participate in a “Shark Tank” experience to pitch their product to the instructors.

Rapid City 8th Grade Career Exploration Course - this course educates students on the skills they need to be a contributing part of the 21st century workforce. The course consists of guest speakers, learning tours, and career cluster activities, including manufacturing.

State Technical Schools - host a wide array of career exploration opportunities like BIG Campout, Women in Science, Career Expos, Transportation and Manufacturing Camp, E-Week, summer camps, and more.

Hacking Sioux Falls - teaches kids about electronics, embedded technology, and engineering.

Inmate Vocational Training - Springfield Prison offers inmates opportunities to gain employment skills by participating in welding and construction projects to help them re-enter the workforce.

Automation 101 – a hands-on training developed by South Dakota Manufacturing & Technology Solutions to teach employees about the benefits of automation and how to identify opportunities for automation in the workplace

Closing the skills gap is not a one-size-fits-all approach. It is going to take time, effort, and all hands on deck. By investing in industry education and changing the manufacturing perception, we can build a sustainable workforce and a strong future for manufacturing.