In his State of the State address to the South Dakota Legislature, Governor Dennis Daugaard mentioned the need for people to acquire the skills to meet the needs of the labor market.  He submits a few more details on what it will take for the education system to equip the students of today and make them the workforce of tomorrow.  The full text of his weekly column is as follows:

It can be difficult for high school seniors and college-aged students to choose a career path. Deciding what to do with one’s life is a daunting task. Students consider their own talents and interests, the cost of education, and the job opportunities and earning potential of each option.

When making these decisions, it’s important for students to have the information and tools they need to choose careers and academic programs. They need to be familiar with all of the options.

That is why it is important that opportunities for CTE – Career and Technical Education – can be found in our K-12 schools.

CTE programs can help prepare our young people to live and work in the 21st Century. These programs are very closely aligned with our state’s workforce needs: from welding and machining, to healthcare and construction trades, to engineering and biosciences. These programs give students experiences so they understand these aren’t “dirty jobs”, but opportunities to work with the latest technology – hands-on, right here in South Dakota at our universities and technical institutes.

Over the last two years, we’ve worked to increase interest in these programs as we’ve continued to strengthen SDMyLife, an online portal for students and parents to research career and academic options. And we have organized and promoted career camps in engineering, information technology, healthcare and skilled trades to expose students to these high-need career fields.

But now, we’re looking to do more.

While many of our schools offer good CTE programs, these expensive programs can be difficult to offer and maintain, especially for smaller school districts. In my State of the State Address I announced that I will use at least $5 million in Future Funds, this year, to support a series of Governor’s Grants for K-12 CTE. These grants will help schools join together to strengthen their current CTE offerings. We won’t be able to accept every good idea this year, but we can get a strong start.

This year we will also enable more high school students to take dual credit courses. More and more high school CTE programs are partnering with our technical institutes to provide courses that award both high school credit and post-secondary credit. Schools cannot typically pay for university or technical institute credit, and in some cases that expense makes these opportunities cost prohibitive for a student’s family.

Today, a high school student taking a university or technical school class for credit must pay the normal tuition rate – as much as $300 a credit for university, distance-based courses. My budget proposal this year seeks to make these opportunities more affordable. My proposal, which combines state funds with discounts from the universities and technical schools, will make entry-level courses at the universities and technical institutes available to high school students for only $40 per credit.

I don’t pretend that these efforts will accomplish everything – we can’t do it all this year. But it’s a good start to creating new opportunities for our young people to learn, work and live here in South Dakota. And perhaps, for some, that tough decision they have to make will be made a little easier.