My first job consisted of a list of farm chores – feed the horses, check the cows, clean the barns. But it was never my intention to keep that job forever. It wasn’t my dad’s wish for me either. At one time, my dad suggested that my sister and I should become famous auctioneers. He used to say that the “Arnold Sisters” could travel the Midwest entertaining crowds while helping families get the most for their treasures.
I often laugh when I think about what could have been. As it turns out, being an auctioneer requires a license. And getting that license took too many steps for my teenage self. Now, as Governor, I realize that many South Dakotans have similar hoops to jump through to reach their dreams.
I recently announced an investment of $7.9 million for businesses across South Dakota to develop new and expand existing Registered Apprenticeship Programs. Apprenticeships provide on-the-job training for folks wanting to earn a new license or pick up a new skill. They allow people to get the training they need while earning a wage to take care of themselves and their families.
When I’ve asked business owners across the state why they do not have apprenticeship programs, their answer is almost always a lack of funds. South Dakota has never made an investment like this in apprenticeships. I realize that government dollars often come with strings attached, but we won’t dictate how businesses use these grants. They invest in apprenticeship programs, then we get out of the way and let them do what they need to succeed.
Our unemployment is at 1.9% – that’s not only the lowest in state history, but the lowest in American history. Even so, we’re still struggling to fill our open jobs. Thanks to these apprenticeship programs, individuals won’t have to leave their job or delay joining the workforce to get the training they need to enter the career of their dreams.
I also signed an Executive Order expanding job opportunities to South Dakotans without a postsecondary degree. It requires executive branch agencies to consider work and life experiences during the hiring process when a college degree is not required to perform the duties of the job.
There are many cases where lived experiences are more valuable than academic degrees. Take me, for instance – I took classes for many years, but I did not graduate with my bachelor’s degree until I was already a member of Congress. I think it’s safe to say that not having that degree didn’t hold me back, and it shouldn’t prevent qualified South Dakotans from accomplishing their goals either.
I firmly believe that the state that has the workers will be the state that succeeds.
South Dakota has the lowest unemployment in the nation, but we aren’t settling. We are continuing to make our state even better. We’re making it easier for folks who want to work, who are qualified to work, to actually get to work.
Who knows, maybe in my retirement years I’ll find the time to finally get that auctioneering license. It would certainly be an easier process now than it was when I was a teen.