SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — There are nearly 7,000 job openings listed in Sioux Falls.
At the same time, the city has an unemployment rate of 2.5% with a high labor force participation.
One new program created during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic is now aiming to help fill some of the 7,000 open jobs by training employees already working in a specific industry. This week, the Sioux Falls Development Foundation and Southeast Tech announced a $100,000 workforce recruitment grant from the Governor’s Office of Economic Development.
The money will be used to boost Southeast Tech’s UpSkill program and to fund a new marketing campaign by the Sioux Falls Development Foundation to recruit people to the city.
Bob Mundt, the Sioux Falls Development Foundation President and CEO, said the marketing campaign will be focused on recruiting workers with previous ties to Sioux Falls in markets like Sioux City, Omaha, Council Bluffs, Des Moines, Minneapolis, St. Paul and Fargo.
“We have a lot of challenges here, but we’re meeting and addressing those challenges as best we can,” Mundt said. “Hopefully, we can start to make a dent in the need that we have for more advanced workers.”
While the development foundation is aiming to bring more skilled workers to Sioux Falls, Southeast Tech is working on providing further career development to workers already working here. Bob Griggs, Southeast Tech’s president, said the UpSkill program started in 2020 to help workers who lost employment because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The program is now offered for workers looking for a new career path or workers looking to upgrade with new certifications provided by South Dakota’s technical colleges.
“No matter what industry sector that we visit with, they are in desperate need of more skilled employees,” Griggs said. “This latest grant is an example of partnering together to meet those workforce needs.”
The UpSkill program is a combination between the South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation and the South Dakota Board of Technical Education. In 2021, 85 students took advantage of the free tuition offered by the UpSkill program. The program’s website says it offers 19 different programs at the four technical colleges.
Southeast Tech offers computer support and web programming, while Mitchell Tech offers medical information, dietary management and professional truck driving.
Griggs said the need for more skilled employees is “across the board.”
“Health care, manufacturing, construction, electrician, welding,” were a few industries Griggs quickly listed. “We’re hoping to use those grant dollars to provide tuition for those individuals for that upskilling or additional training.”
The state labor department’s 2020 workforce report listed South Dakota’s top 30 occupations by employment and demand. Annual openings were highest for truck drivers at 1,100, followed by registered nurses, carpenters and sales representatives for wholesale and manufacturing.
Griggs noted three of the state labor department’s top 10 occupations in Sioux Falls were registered nurse, licensed practical nurse and certified nursing assistant.
Mundt said the development foundation is working to identify the top five areas of need.
“How do we get more people here to take those positions, but also how to develop a mechanism to upskill the employees that we have into the types of jobs we have now,” Mundt said. “We have a great resource in Southeast Tech. If we can leverage them to help upskill some of the people that are already working in those industries, we can fill that void within.”