SD undereducated when it comes to future employment, study finds

SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) – About 51% of South Dakota residents do not have a post-secondary certificate or degree, according to an organization that studies education and related issues in the United States.

The Lumina Foundation tracks progress and states the nation is making in educational achievement.

Nick Wendell, executive director of the South Dakota Board of Technical Colleges, said many states partner with Lumina to provide them with education data.

“Part of the value is that it’s census-based and looks at every county in a state when it assesses the post-secondary educational attainment of the working-age adult population,” Wendell said on January 25.

Wendell included post-secondary data in his Jan. 24 presentation to the Legislative Joint Appropriations Committee.

Lumina found that 49.2% of working-age adults (25-64) in South Dakota had earned a certification or diploma from a two- or four-year college. This is less than the national rate of 52% (51.9%).

Wendell said Lumina data helps identify areas where there may be gaps in access to certification and further post-secondary education.

For example, Lincoln County reached 55.6%. The level increased by 10.2% from 2009 to 2019, according to Lumina. Is the level higher because of the types of jobs available in the county in cities like Sioux Falls and because of access to a technical college and two private colleges in Sioux Falls?

The rate in Brule County, which includes Chamberlain and Kimball, is 43.3%.

Wendell said geography and access play a role in educational attainment, but so does money.

Technical colleges are working to fill this education gap because more jobs will require skilled employees in the future, Wendell said.

Lumina predicts that by 2025, 60% of adults in the United States will need quality credentials beyond high school. Lumina describes degrees as having clear and transparent learning outcomes that lead to further education and employment.

Wendell said 70% to 80% of jobs in the future will require “some kind of post-secondary education (certificate, degree).”

In 2017, the McKinsey Global Institute identified that 75 million to 375 million people worldwide may need to change job categories and learn new skills by 2030. This is partly because automation is replacing certain jobs and that automation creates new jobs requiring different skills.

Students who do not pursue further studies beyond high school could be fooling themselves. Communities in which adults do not increase their skill levels could suffer. The industry will also suffer if higher levels of education are not achieved.

The largest demographic segment in the country is baby boomers. Baby boomers are retiring or changing jobs and those jobs will need to be filled, Wendell said. Baby boomers have more people than Generation Z or Millennials, for example, which makes labor shortages worse.

The need for future skilled workers is particularly acute when considering the current need for any worker. According to the United States Chamber of Commerce, there are 67 workers for every 100 job openings in the United States.

Think of a small town that has plumbers or a business that needs employees and medical clinics that need nurses. What happens when this workforce retires? How are vacancies for skilled labor filled?

The research also points to a need for jobs that most haven’t given much thought to as technology and automation evolve and influence the job market.

Southeastern Technical College in Sioux Falls has launched health care programs at a satellite site in Huron, Wendell said. There are 12 students (cohorts) in the first year. Huron Regional Medical Center is a partner and will need future employees, Wendell said.

There are other industries that are ready to partner with the education and training system, he said.

Geography and access are not the only barriers to post-secondary education. The other big hurdle can be money.

Wendell said the Build South Dakota scholarship program is having a positive impact. As of fall 2021, there were 457 scholars in the technical college network. There were 300 industries that agreed to pay 50% of the student’s tuition if the student agreed to work for them for a certain period of time, he said.

Some of the 51% who did not earn a certification or degree took courses, Wendell said.

There are many reasons some students never graduate, he said.

Tech colleges should also work to encourage those students to pursue a certification or that degree, Wendell said.

These students may need to take part-time courses or financial aid. A job, a mortgage, and a family can be reasons someone got a certification or degree.

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