Democratic Legislative Leaders Discuss Importance of Education in Workforce Development

PIERRE, S.D. – At their weekly press conference this morning, State Senate Democratic Leader Sen. Billie Sutton of Burke and State House Democratic Leader Spence Hawley of Brookings discussed the need for the State Legislature to prioritize workforce development and the importance of quality education as a key aspect of a workforce development strategy. They also congratulated the Department of Tourism on a successful annual conference and the eighth consecutive year of growth in visits to the state and dollars spent by tourists in South Dakota.

“We believe that an emphasis on workforce development is absolutely needed to help solve the worker shortage in our state,” said Sutton. “While we’ve heard some interesting ideas from our friends across the aisle that are worthy of discussion, we’re disappointed at the lack of recognition that providing our children with a world-class education is one of best workforce development methods there is.”

Sutton said that the lack of investment in South Dakota’s schools – from early childhood education to postsecondary education – is now costing the state’s economy as businesses are having trouble finding qualified workers.

“Unfortunately, while our caucus has recognized the connection between education and workforce development and has fought to properly invest in our state’s children and their schools, the political establishment has not fully embraced our efforts.”

Rep. Hawley noted efforts at workforce development should be matched with efforts to attract and retain skilled workers in South Dakota.

“Democrats recognize the importance of good wages and good benefits in attracting and retaining skilled workers. That’s why we fought to put a minimum wage increase on the ballot in 2014, and fought against efforts to undermine that increase in 2016,” Hawley said.

Hawley said Democratic efforts to pass paid sick and family leave for South Dakota workers in large corporations was also an important part of attracting and retaining workers.

“Passing paid sick and family leave would be a huge boost for South Dakota’s working families,” Hawley said. “Democrats will fight for these and other common sense policies every day this Legislative Session to help our economy work for working families. We hope the majority will join us in these efforts to develop and retain a highly qualified workforce in our state.”

Turning from the discussion of workforce development, both Rep. Hawley and Sen. Sutton had words of praise for the Department of Tourism.

“Tourism is one of South Dakota’s most important industries, and to have eight straight years of growth is an impressive accomplishment,” said Sutton. “It shows the skill and hard work of the staff at the Department of Tourism, and our caucus would like to congratulate them on a job well done.”