SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) –Some of the top agricultural leaders in the region were in Sioux Falls this week for the Midwest Agricultural Exports Summit. The event also featured Linda McMahon, the former director of the Small Business Administration who now focuses on workforce. How the current nationwide shortage is impacting the ag industry in tonight’s Your Money Matters.
“Workforce is tight, I mean you hear that unemployment is down to 3.8, 3.9 percent, that sounds great, except you don’t have enough workers to fill the jobs across the country,” Linda McMahon said.
It’s something Linda McMahon has experienced firsthand as she visits small business owners around the U.S., including two stops at Sioux Falls businesses during her visit this week.
“I always like to go out and visit in a community when I can, I don’t think you can help develop policy, I don’t think you can understand what people really go through unless you go out and talk to them,” McMahon said.
What she’s hearing from South Dakotans mirrors much of what’s happening in the rest of the nation, but she commends South Dakota’s efforts to attract more workers.
“You’ve got a governor here, I’ve watched her commercials from Connecticut, that have been on for attracting plumbers, welders and electricians, those kinds of programs and apprenticeships are incredibly vital,” McMahon said.
McMahon toured Southeast Tech this week, saying the kinds of programs they offer can help ease the strain on the worker shortage, including in the ag industry.
“The average age of the farmer today is 58 years old, many of them don’t have a succession plan to find, so workforce development through apprenticeships and ways to learn about the business of agriculture is important,” Luke Lindberg, the President & CEO of South Dakota Trade said.
McMahon is a big proponent of tech schools or apprenticeship training, saying four-year degrees aren’t always the right path for every industry or degree. She says helping re-wire that thinking in education can help more kids get interested in hands-on careers like agriculture.
“I think we need to start down in our K-12 programs, making all kinds of work cool so that you do what you want to do. Then if you’re involved in a program you’re passionate about and you build a business around that, then you’re going to be much happier in the workforce,” McMahon said.
SD Trade says workforce development is one of the largest challenges facing the ag industry today.