Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Why Didn't Governor Daugaard Become A Welder? After All, It's A Good Trade And It Pays Well.

     Our South Dakota Governor Daugaard's thoughts on matching students with workforce needs have some merit.  As Daugaard notes in his piece on the subject in the RCJ a couple of days
Does Daugaard Know About This?
Job Now, Unemployment Later
ago, South Dakota "has a shortage of skilled workers" that "limits businesses' ability to grow."  As an employer in this state I can--along with probably every one of my peers--vouch for that indisputable fact.  We need more skilled workers in South Dakota, period.  I appreciate that Daugaard is approaching the problem head-on by focusing on programs that will give our high school students some direct job-based training opportunities before they graduate.  No doubt many of these young people will learn skills that will do them and their communities a lot of good.

    But admirable as our Governor's intentions are, there are two problems with them.  The first of those has to do with the overall structure of economic and living conditions in South Dakota, which have to create an environment that attracts highly skilled workers in the first place.  Wages top that list of conditions, and on that front, South Dakota's ranking is awful.  Daugaard is focusing on the supply of skilled labor while ignoring the weakness of demand for it.  Per an analysis in the Argus-Leader last year, hourly wages here are fifth-lowest in the nation.  More troubling is the trend: adjusted for inflation, South Dakota wages last year dropped .3 percent while the average nationally rose by 1.6%.  
     The old canard about tut-tutting that persistent differential by claiming South Dakotans have a lower cost of living has long-since been discredited by the facts.  The Council For Community And Economic Research, whose data is developed in conjunction with the U.S. Census Bureau, ranked South Dakota's cost of living during the first quarter of this year as virtually identical to the national average.  The fact is, our workforce is seriously underpaid compared to the rest of the country's, a fact that Daugaard either ignores or refuses to address.  
     The second problem with Daugaard's approach is more troubling to me because of its built-in development of a calcified workforce.  That may have worked in the 20th century, but nowadays we regularly see the unfortunate destinies of workers with skills that are no longer needed. Factory workers in particular are being regularly displaced by robots.  Educated young people need to know how to deal with a world that will value their skills one day and disdain them the next. The ability to analyze, think, and adjust is just as important as any specific job specialty, and those qualities can be developed and nurtured in our public schools. His good intentions notwithstanding, it would be nice to see Governor Daugaard place as much emphasis on intellectual development as he does on vocational training.  


  1. John, I agree with your first two premises, AS Wages are low and AS Cost of Living is not low. In the case of Vocational training I believe the governor is on the right track. Good Vocational Training teaches not only the skill nedded, but also the theory behind the skills so that the trainer can adapt as the job requirements evolve. With the theory comes some basic general educastion like Math and Reading etc.

  2. Thanks John. And as I pointed out to another blogger, as well as all the legislators a couple of years ago, putting the long overdue rise in pay for teachers, on the backs of sales tax payers, to include their groceries, was/is just completely wrong. Since the majority of those taxpayers are as underpaid as the teachers or more so.

    The only people (in most cases) not underpaid in South Dakota, are public employees of the State and larger cities.