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Watertown Hosts Workforce Summit

May 21, 2014, 5:00 PM by Erich Schaffhauser

Watertown Hosts Workforce Summit
WATERTOWN, SD -

The governor and other state leaders have four more stops in a workforce needs tour.

They held the first of six workforce summits in Mitchell last month. They met with regional officials and employers in Watertown Wednesday.

Business leaders brainstorm at the summits to come up with ways to get more workers in their parts of the state.

"Bring some perspective on how to benchmark what some other companies are doing, what they found to be successful," Alan Stager said.

Alan Stager is finance director of Terex in Watertown. He says the company wants to expand but struggles to find qualified employees.

“The skill level required in our advanced manufacturing techniques continues to rise,” Stager said.

He says Terex is willing to invest in training and recruiting. That's also a task others face.

Governor Dennis Daugaard says the number of job seekers in South Dakota is similar to the number of open positions. But many of those people aren't trained for the types of available jobs.

"Even if we address that skills gap, the numbers are so close that it's not enough to allow for growth," Daugaard said.

That's why state leaders are holding workforce summits in communities across South Dakota. The state has some programs in place already to address the issue.

It's tried recruiting people who've lived in South Dakota or have ties to the area through a program called Dakota Roots. That program produced more results than expected. But another attempt to attract new South Dakotans produced less than expected.

According to numbers from the state, those recruitment programs have attracted more than 4,000 workers to South Dakota since 2006. Most of those recruits have been from the Dakota Roots program.

Attending the summits are state leaders representing labor, rural health, and education departments, both K-12 and post-secondary. Local officials join in, hoping for results.

"Generally we're seeing workforce demand that is really spread out across all sectors of our economy," Craig Atkins, President of Watertown Development Company said.

State leaders will hold a summit in Brookings Thursday. They'll stop in Rapid City, Aberdeen and Sioux Falls in June.

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