SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Construction companies across South Dakota are trying to attract future workers but the pandemic is limiting hands-on interactions at local schools. The Associated General Contractors of South Dakota usually holds construction camps each year to attract potential construction employees, but they’ve been canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rusty Fiegen with Fiegen Construction in Sioux Falls is always concerned about workforce development.
“It’s very important. We’re running out of workforce. We’ve got to find some replacements. My guys back here are getting a little gray-haired and a little old just like the rest of us,” Fiegen said.
A youth apprenticeship program funded by the Department of Labor and Regulation is hoping to attract local high school students. Margaret Pennock with the AGC of South Dakota says it’s been hard to inspire young people without in-person camps during the pandemic.
“We just weren’t able to do that this year unfortunately because of COVID. We also have a couple of other programs that we weren’t able to do because of COVID. So this is an opportunity with this youth apprenticeship that we’re launching that allows people to be more one on one. So we actually have that opportunity to get that experience,” Pennock said.
It’s a paid federal apprenticeship in commercial carpentry or heavy equipment that starts at $12.50 an hour. Participants must be eligible for Dual Credit. The program will pay for up to six credits.
“The theory is, get them in the pipeline and bring them in after school is out,” Fiegen said.
It’s a pathway to a future career in construction for 16-to-17-year-olds.
“COVID-19 never shut us down. That’s a really important thing. It’s a very stable and rewarding career field. It’s a really great way to share what we do,” Pennock said.
This push coincides with Careers in Construction month in South Dakota. If you’re interested in the youth apprenticeship program, click here.