In 1879, a 16-year-old boy told his parents he wanted to learn how to build machinery. He moved nine miles away from his parents’ farm to take an apprenticeship as a machinist at a shipbuilding firm in Detroit. From there, he went on to become an engineer for the Detroit Edison Company where he developed plans for a horseless carriage. Twenty-four years after accepting that apprenticeship, Henry Ford established the Ford Motor Company.

We see it through Henry Ford’s story, and we see it time and time again: work-based learning works.

In mid-September, my team and I announced the official kick-off of our South Dakota Week of Work initiative — a partnership with businesses and schools that will give 10th grade students the opportunity to get out of the classroom, experience the world of work, and see careers that are available right here in South Dakota. It will help teach them soft skills like showing up on time, dressing professionally, and interacting with customers. Our first Week of Work will be April 20-24, 2020.

This initiative will also help address our skills gap. As I talk with employers throughout the state, I hear the same thing over and over. They tell me that business is good and they’d like to expand, but they can’t find skilled workers to fill the open jobs.  

As of July, we have 17,300 job openings in South Dakota and 12,800 people who are unemployed. The problem is two-fold: we don’t have the people needed to fill openings and often those who are looking for work don’t have the skills needed for the open positions.

This program will help bridge that gap.

By connecting businesses with students interested in their field of work, businesses can help develop the needed skills for future leaders in their industry. Students get exposure to careers where they could excel and that they’re passionate about. Everyone wins.  

This fall, I’m inviting businesses to sign up for this special event at sdweekofwork.com. In the spring, schools will be able to register students for the opportunities businesses are offering.

I strongly believe that within our South Dakota schools today are the next Henry Fords — innovators with ideas that will change the world. They are the next generation’s chefs, teachers, mechanics, dentists, pastors, police officers, lawyers, nurses, and engineers. Within our students sits our state’s greatest potential. Now is the time to get our kids into the workplace and show them the opportunities and careers available right here in South Dakota.

 

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