South Dakota’s jobs market is booming. Our unemployment rate is the lowest in America. Businesses are moving to our state in large numbers. But we’re always looking for ways to continue to the state’s workforce. We want businesses to be able to hire the right talent to fill the openings that they have available. Both through targeted recruitment campaigns and investments in higher education, South Dakota is working to capitalize on our strong economic position and set our state up for even more success far into the future.
I recently announced a partnership between the Department of Tourism and the Department of Labor and Regulation to match tourism businesses with potential employees. Tourism is our state’s second largest industry, but the seasonal nature of some tourism jobs can make hiring difficult. The success of this industry is a major factor in South Dakota’s economic health going forward. By matching tourism businesses with quality individuals, we can allow them to focus on taking care of visitors to our beautiful state.
Similarly, we’re working to relaunch our law enforcement recruitment campaign.Over the past year, law enforcement has been attacked and demeaned in other communities across the country, so we’re letting them know that we’d love to have them in South Dakota. We respect law enforcement officers for everything that they do to keep our state safe. This campaign had tremendous success when we first launched it last year, so we will continue to build off of that.
Our efforts to strengthen South Dakota’s workforce go far beyond recruitment. Some of the most important workforce training happens in higher education. And this year, I worked with the legislature and industry partners to make targeted investments in the future of higher education in our state. For instance, we paid down debt at our technical colleges, freeing up money that can be reinvested into preparing our students for their career after graduation.
We made a historic investment in the South Dakota Freedom Scholarship, which will help set low-income South Dakota students up for a lifetime of success. With the scholarship’s requirement that students live and work in our state for three years after graduation, it will help bolster the state’s workforce as well. The legislature funded $50 million to help create an endowment for this scholarship. Industry and community partners have stepped up to the tune of $125 million as well, which gets the endowment near its goal of $200 million.
We also reinvested in the Build Dakota Scholarship, which matches students at our tech colleges with high-demand career opportunities. Together with industry partners, we’ll put $40 million into this scholarship over the next five years. This scholarship has the same requirements that students live and work in South Dakota for three years after graduation as well.
South Dakota’s economy may be strong, but there are opportunities to continue to grow our workforce. I hope to see apprenticeship programs continue to grow and develop. And there is still a gap to close to fully fund the Freedom Scholarship endowment. I promise to continue addressing workforce needs across the state.
South Dakota has the strongest economy in America, but now is not the time to settle. We have a tremendous opportunity to propel South Dakota forward into the future. Let’s work together to get it done.