Just finished reading all 62 pages of Governor Daugaard's "Workforce Summit Final Report." Like Daugaard's other efforts at developing a larger pool of skilled workers in South Dakota, I think this one is likely to fail. My friend Cory Heidelberger over at The Madville Times calls attention to the report's most glaring oversight, its failure to address the gap between South Dakota wages and those of our surrounding states. I'm as astonished as Cory by this omission of the obvious, but after going through the polemic (provided by Accenture plc) I was mainly struck by the report's misplaced emphasis.
This report is all about developing skilled workers, mainly from within South Dakota's population, and unleashing them on a state that purportedly is desperate for their technical skillsets. Considering that only a bit over half of our current tech school grads are employed in their fields in South Dakota, the need doesn't seem to be for more trained tech school graduates but for jobs that they can get here inside the state. And this is where I think Accenture has seriously missed the mark. As I believe that labor follows capital, the state's emphasis should be on attracting businesses that can pay competitive wages and make a lifetime in South Dakota a real consideration for young people in search of a good home and a decent job. Just to give you an idea of what's available in Rapid City on the job front these days, here's Monster.com's list today. Nothing against these jobs or the people that take them--it's just that there doesn't seem to be much demand for well-trained, highly skilled workers in this town.
I do like the report's constant drumbeat about all of this being a joint effort. Accenture correctly emphasizes that "each sector has a role in a developing unified workforce agenda moving forward. The next step is for business, education, community and government to identify and implement the possibilities . . ." Rhetorical as that phrase may seem, it's dead on. I just don't happen to agree with the report's strong bias toward possibilities that are limited to turning out a larger pool of skilled workers. There's a much bigger picture than this tunnelized view suggests. South Dakota has to make itself a place where not only workers want to settle in. It has to work at attracting the management and investment classes as well. That's a tall order, indeed, but one that has to be filled.