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Lake Area Tech President Returns From Meeting With Biden

June 9, 2014, 6:00 PM by Erich Schaffhauser

Lake Area Tech President Returns From Meeting With Biden

The president of Lake Area Technical Institute in Watertown is back from a meeting with the Vice President of the United States.

Deb Shephard met with Joe Biden and others to discuss workforce needs in the country. Fourteen people representing different businesses, labor unions and other technical schools across the country took part in the meeting.

They're looking at ways to develop a workforce that will meet current and future needs. Shephard says the issue resonates nationwide: jobs need to be filled, but they require specific training.

"How do you take the people that are currently unemployed, get them the skills they need to fill those jobs? Because right now it's hampering economic development all across the country," Shephard said.

Shephard says both Vice President Biden and U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez were at the Washington, D.C. meeting. Those involved discussed different solutions, which are working in some states to address the skills gap.

"South Dakota is actually a little ahead of the curve on this, which is one of the reasons we were asked to participate in the discussion," Shephard said.

Employers and schools in the state have strong partnerships that are effectively training students to fill positions in needed career fields, Shephard said. Those partnerships could be used as a model for other parts of the country.

Shephard also learned about areas that need improvement in South Dakota. One idea, she says, is that the state needs to improve training options for people in remote areas who can't leave home for a couple years in school.

"They've already got families and jobs that they need to keep but they also need to get the training. So anything we can do with them where they're at is a great thing for South Dakota to develop," Shephard said.

South Dakota was also recognized for policies it has to address the issue, Shephard said, such as providing workforce scholarships.

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