‘The cyber state’ takes shape with first-of-its-kind research center

Think of the newly opened Madison Cyber Labs at Dakota State University as a big magnet.

“It’s going to attract people to come to work, new faculty who will be able to conduct research with federal agencies they can’t do on other campuses,” DSU president José-Marie Griffiths said. “And we think it will attract partnerships. We know it’s already attracting partnerships.”

The 38,000-square-foot building that opened in recent weeks already is fulfilling much of its promise.

As students move in, collaboration already is starting, those using the building said.

That was the idea when Griffiths proposed the concept to her campus and to the South Dakota Board of Regents just a few short years ago.

“We couldn’t have one lab per faculty member pursuing their individual research agendas. They had to be broader and involve others across campus and potentially involve external partners,” she said.

“The intent is not just research for the sake of research. It’s researching real problems, developing real solutions, but at the same time creating jobs for people who engage in that R&D and spin off companies that take that R&D and put it out into the real world.”

The Mad Labs are comprised of one dozen labs that mostly flow seamlessly into one enough throughout about half the building. Their focuses range from externally testing networks to determining vulnerabilities inside organizations, to studying security around the Internet of Things and connected devices ranging from thermostats to appliances to Alexa.

“Each of the labs will employ a good number of students,” said Dave Link, Mad Labs director. “One lab has five students actively working on projects right now. Another lab has a similar number. A third lab has eight students involved. So all these different labs provide opportunities for students to apply the knowledge they’re learning on a daily basis in their curriculum to actual real-world situations.”

Another part of the building is for classified research, and that’s positioning the Madison and the broader Sioux Falls region for more economic development, Griffiths said. The building can accommodate about 180 jobs – positions she expects will begin filling up as the center is accredited by the National Security Agency.

“This is opportunity then for our graduates who currently have to leave the state to do classified work, because they have to be in a facility that can accommodate it, to stay home,” Griffiths said.

“And a number of our graduates who have been gone for a while can come back. So the Cyclops lab is really a way for us to try and keep some of our graduates in South Dakota, attract some of our graduates back and attract people who want to come live and work here and have meaningful work they can do for federal agencies.”

There is enough potential that the classified work eventually could expand to Sioux Falls, she added. And the people skilled in cyber security work could be an impetus for other related businesses to relocate or expand in the area.

“There’s tremendous potential,” she said. “We could easily expand to well beyond 180 positions. And Sioux Falls makes sense. It’s a major city, it has all the amenities young people want to have.”

Sioux Falls could accommodate up to 1,000 industry workers, she predicted.

It would set the state into that ‘cyber state’ position. That’s really powerful.

Back in the Mad Labs, area businesses also are beginning to become involved with DSU and the opportunities that exist for cyber search.

The Digital Forensics for Cyber Enforcement lab is available as a resource for businesses, including those that have been victimized by cyber criminals and have a need for the extraction, preservation and analysis of data from digital devices.

East River Electric is partnering on a project in Mad Labs to study energy use related to connected devices in the home.

Sioux Falls-based SDN Communications has a presence there to support its internal cybersecurity efforts and those of its customers..

“I’m most excited about workforce retention potential,” said Mark Shlanta, CEO of SDN Communications, which is a partner in the Mad Labs project.

“Mad Labs will help bring new talent into the state or back to the state.”

The building also is home to the CybHER Lab, which builds on DSU’s success in attracting women into the cybersecurity field and supporting them as they pursue college degrees and professional development.

Its CybHER program was formally created in 2016 and has reached more than 14,000 girls in grades K through 12 with its programming, which includes the largest girls residential cyber camp in the country.

At Mad Labs, students in the CybHER Lab are working on developing curriculum and outreach efforts as well as collaborating with colleagues in the other labs and working on personal research.

“Our students now have a space where they can get together, brainstorm ideas and how they’re going to implement them. They’re already using it for that,” said Pam Rowland, assistant professor of cyber security, director of the CybHER Institute and co-founder of the CybHER program.

“I think we’re going to be pleasantly surprised by what they’ll come up with in this space.”

It all supports the larger goal of bringing more women into cybersecurity, Rowlands said.

“There is such a gap in the number workers we have, with 1.8 million job openings and so few women in the field,” she said, adding only 11 percent of current workers are women.

“So there’s just this great opportunity to bring more people into the field and have that whole diversity of thought and be able to work together to solve some of our very significant issues within the United States and the world.”

Students leave DSU “knowing how to do things,” Griffiths added. “That’s an advantage.”

And it shows. DSU students trained in cyber security have a 100 percent job placement rate, Link said.

And what we’re hearing from employers and government entities is they will take as many as we can produce.

Look at a map of the United States and the opportunity becomes even clearer, Griffiths added.

Cybersecurity companies and related startups are located mainly on the coasts. There are a few in Texas.

“And there’s nothing in the middle of the United States,” she said. “So there’s an opportunity here, because we’ve got good people, people who are able to do the work, people who want to do the work, people who prefer the lifestyle they can enjoy in this part of the world. And it’s a great place to do business. So to me, it just makes sense.”

WIN in Workforce Summit 2020

Attracting, retaining and developing talent is still top of mind for business leaders in the Sioux Falls area despite the disruption of 2020 – and they showed it by showing up in record numbers at the WIN in Workforce Summit.

The annual event, put on by the Sioux Falls Development Foundation, drew more than 1,000 attendees thanks to a hybrid format that allowed virtual and in-person attendance.

“We have stepped into virtual programming in a very confident, very strong way,” said Denise Guzzetta, vice president of talent and workforce development. “And we’re just going to see more and more participation as we engage this new generation, Generation Z.”

The newest generation in the workplace was the focus of multiple sessions during the conference, which was divided into tracks for health, bio and life sciences, cyber and technology and general business and manufacturing.

Attendees also could engage through Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or Zoom throughout the day. Mayor Paul TenHaken and keynote speaker Peter Bregman, recognized as the world’s top executive coach by Leading Global Coaches, addressed the event virtually.

“Being able to have the hybrid format is really important. And I think the content is really critical right now, given the environment that we’re in, being able to attract talent,” said Sandra Wallace, assistant vice president of employee relations and talent acquisition for First Premier Bank/Premier Bankcard, who spoke on a panel about Generation Z.

Hiring needs haven’t slowed in 2020, many attendees agreed.

“We’re back to that tight labor market that we experienced pre-pandemic,” said Kurt Loudenback CEO Grand Prairie Foods.

And so it’s more apparent than ever that as a business, we’ve got to be hiring and training and developing like never before.

For in-person attendees, the event took substantial measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including temperature screening at the entrance, intentional spacing and pre-packaged food.

“I thought Denise did a phenomenal job making sure everybody had plenty of space in person while engaging with a huge audience virtually at the same time,” said Chris Houwman, CEO of Malloy.

“I thought the content was excellent. Malloy requires highly skilled talent to keep industry running, and the program was very applicable to us, from interns to Gen Z to recruiting. I thought it was spot on for companies that are expanding and need a workforce to support that.”

Talent Thursday Live Talks Help Introduce Young Talent

They’re live, candid conversations meant to introduce young talent to the Sioux Falls area and beyond.

For several weeks, the Sioux Falls Development Foundation has hosted Talent Thursday, a live chat on Facebook co-hosted by SiouxFalls.Business that has talked with young professionals about their career paths, company culture Sioux Falls lifestyle and opportunities for growth and giving back.

Companies featured so far have included First Premier Bank, ISG and Marsh & McLennan.

“We’ve focused on career clusters we have here and where we’re looking to supply critical talent,” said Denise Guzzetta, vice president of talent and workforce development.

“So, biotech, health and life sciences, energy and technology, so we’re showcasing these interesting journeys, and this is all leading up to Talent Draft Day, one of our largest programs, where we celebrate talent and workforce.”

For young professionals such as Kim Munoz, a personal banker at First Premier Bank, the talk represented a chance to share her love for her job.

“It was awesome,” she said. “When I was asked to do this, I watched the previous Talent Thursdays and it was so cool to learn about the different talent in Sioux Falls I wasn’t even aware of, so I learned something from each video.”

In addition to running the videos on Facebook, Guzzetta is sharing them on Handshake, a network that colleges and students use to connect with employers

It is the largest network of its kind dedicated to early career professionals, so we’ll be looking at 2,000 schools across the U.S. where this content will be streaming,” she said. “And then we’ll use that to encourage people to register for Talent Draft Day 2020.

Talent Draft Day 2020 will be held in-person at the Best Western Ramkota and also as a national virtual symposium livestreamed on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube platforms on October 8, 2020.

To take a look inside the live chats, or to learn more about Talent and Workforce programming at the Sioux Falls Development Foundation, click below:

To get connected to Talent Draft Day on Oct. 8 and other workforce development opportunities in the Sioux Falls area, Contact Denise Guzetta.

Growing Financial Services Fellowship Builds Regional Talent Pipeline.

There were days as graduate students at SDSU when Ryan Burton and Valerie Bares were learning something in class and applying it that same day in the workplace.

They were two of more than a dozen participants in a unique fellowship program offered by Capital Services, a leading payment portfolio management and service company that originates, services, and manages card assets on behalf of client banks.

Burton and Bares, who earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in the SDSU department of mathematics and statistics, were selected as Capital Services fellows and have gone on to build in-demand careers with what they learned.

“We develop predictive models to help make smart business decisions,” Burton said. “So, the mathematics and statistics learned at SDSU, the applied and theoretical courses are directly applicable to our work. It was a great experience to work at Capital Services while going to school and to take the theoretical knowledge learned in classes and apply it sometimes in the same day at work through Capital Services.”

The fellowship provides tuition for the two-year graduate program as well as a stipend.

The relationship began in 2007 following a conversation between Capital Services president and CEO Chuck Hendrickson and Dr. Kurt Cogswell, head of the department of mathematics and statistics and a professor at SDSU.

The department was looking for a more focused approach to career readiness and regional relevance to the program, Cogswell said, and the support from Capital Services proved an ideal match.

“The first two fellows were extremely successful,” he said.

Those were Dr. Alfred Furth, who now serves as senior vice president of Capital Services, and Tom Brandenburger, now an assistant professor at SDSU.

Since then, other students have gone on to leadership roles at Capital Services and a wide variety of other areas businesses.

“You get really smart people that participate,” Cogswell said. “Then the financial support of Capital allows these people to focus on the task at hand rather than having to work second jobs to support their education.”

The business “provides an outstanding professional development environment for a year or two that gives them the sort of preparation you can’t obtain in a classroom,” he added. “And our faculty provide a really outstanding academic environment. So, we have got all the components put together and it is proven to be tremendous for our department, for the graduate fellows and we hope it’s been good for the region.”

Growing as graduates

For Burton, the fellowship led to a full-time job in 2012 and a promotion in 2018 to his current role as portfolio analytics and risk director.

The Yankton native had gone to SDSU knowing he liked math but not sure what major or career to pursue. After learning about the opportunities in the field and experiencing an internship at Capital Services, he found his future profession and now helps mentor other fellows.

A big part for everyone that’s involved is the mentorship, being able to talk to professors and have theoretical mentorship and talking to industry professionals,” he said.

“And growing up in Yankton, it’s nice to be close to family and Sioux Falls is a good-size city. There’s a lot of opportunity but not a lot of traffic, and the culture in the Midwest is very familiar to me so I’m happy to stick around.”

Bares, a Springfield, S.D., native, arrived at SDSU equally uncertain about what her future held. She began a graduate fellowship at Capital Services in 2009, graduated in 2011 and was hired full time. She spent two years there before returning to SDSU for her PhD, which led to her current role at Sanford Health.

After working with Sanford’s Profile program for her dissertation, she was hired in 2017 as a biostatistician and now is a senior biostatistician.

“We are a service that provides statistical help to researchers at Sanford Research and physician-initiated research throughout Sanford Health,” she said.

“It seems like it’s not really a typical path to go from the credit card industry to health care, but I really think the fellowship was great to be going through coursework and have a place to apply it sometimes in the same day. Some of what I learned at Capital applies to the health care system and some of the data we work with at Sanford. And … I’m able to bring new and innovative ideas to analyze data.”

Both graduates’ experiences meet broader goals for higher education, industry and economic development, Cogswell said.

“In the state of South Dakota, finance and health care are two very key players for our economy, and the methods Ryan and Valerie learned can apply pretty much across our economy,” he said. “You see our students taking those same methods and applying them in precision agriculture or in manufacturing or in hospitality or in transportation or sports analytics. The methods are fairly universal. The choice of career is up to the student.”

Building on success

The Capital Services fellowship program has been so successful, it is growing. The company and SDSU recently finalized a new three-year agreement that started June 22 and runs through fiscal 2023.

It will provide funding to two current faculty members and three graduate students, an increase of one student and one faculty member from what had previously been financed.

“We’ve been delighted to partner with SDSU for more than a decade in helping to develop some of the brightest minds in the Midwest. With the new agreement, we are able to increase the number of opportunities that can be provided,” said Furth, one of the original fellows now in leadership at Capital Services.

We love to see the success our Capital Services Fellows have had in their careers. The students we have funded are extremely intelligent and ambitious. The majority of their success is a result of their own hard work and dedication, but I like to think we had a small part in unlocking their talent for this discipline.

The new fellow will focus on machine learning and artificial intelligence with assistant professor Cedric Neumann, an internationally recognized expert in this area, as the named scholar.

“I think that it is a tremendous opportunity for our students and for local and regional businesses to work together on challenging problems that will have a positive impact on the economy of the region,” Neumann said.

The agreement, which kicked off June 22 to cover fiscal years 2021-23, is the type of partnership the university hopes to further develop with industry, Cogswell said.

“The beauty of the machine learning methods we’re developing and instructing students in area so applicable in so many areas of South Dakota’s economy,” he said. “It’s invaluable. Capital’s commitment to this and the effort they invested in developing graduate fellows has been remarkable. Many of these people stayed at Capital and have done tremendous work, but there is no expectation they will stay at Capital. For a company to have that altruistic approach is extremely admirable.”

But the majority of students coming through the program now stay in South Dakota rather than leaving for just elsewhere after graduation, he added.

“For me that’s the most personally satisfying part,” he said. “I love to see our graduates succeed anywhere, but I hate to see them go off to the coasts. And as of the last dozen years, two-thirds of our department’s graduates have stayed in South Dakota, which is remarkable because they have opportunities across the globe.”

Want to learn more about the Capital Services fellowship and related career opportunities? Visit SDSU’s Department of Mathematics and Statistics online https://www.sdstate.edu/mathematics-statistics

Attracting Talent for the Short and Long-Term Drives Workforce Programming.

South Dakota State University was about to play its first-round basketball game in this year’s Summit League Championships, and the energy was everywhere.

It carried over from the Denny Sanford Premier Center to Crooked Pint Ale House across the street, where a packed reception drew dozens of students, alumni, and area professionals.

Organized by the Sioux Falls Development Foundation, it was meant to “really draw the kids into the area, give them a really fun experience, connect them with our employers, connect them with our great city, make sure they know about all the wonderful career opportunities here,” said Denise Guzzetta, the foundation’s vice president of talent and workforce development.

“We’ve made it fun and engaging.”

SDSU president Barry Dunn praised the approach.

 

I think it’s incredibly creative. I think we’ve all be frustrated with how do we tell our story better,” he said. “I’m just all for it.

While the approach was ideal for pre-COVID times, when gatherings such as the Summit tournament drew thousands of eager participants, the strategy is still sound whether delivered in person or virtually. The Development Foundation has pivoted in recent months but still focuses on connecting talented workers with a city and with employers that are ready to embrace them.

“You look at the shift and it’s now people deciding where they want to live and then finding a job. They used to find a job and then live there,” said Dana Dykhouse, CEO of First Premier Bank, who’s also an SDSU alum in addition to being a champion for workforce development.

“Anything we can do, like the Summit League, to attract people and say this is a big-time community with a big-time basketball tournament, it’s one of the many pieces that go into a community where people want to come. And you enhance that by having job opportunities.”

That’s part of the strategy leveraged by the Development Foundation, utilizing a common draw like the tournament as a way to communicate other professional and quality of life benefits Sioux Falls offers.

“Most of these kids are getting ready to graduate or just graduated so we want to make sure they realize all the career opportunities here,” Guzzetta said.

“It’s both a short and long-term message: We have opportunities and a great place to live right after graduation, and as you develop professionally here you’re going to find a fantastic career path awaits.”

One SDSU alum, Bill Thomas, shared with students the path his engineering degree has opened – with multiple job opportunities in various industries without leaving Sioux Falls.

“I’m just thrilled to be here,” he said.

“The Development Foundation has had a couple events that have been great for us in the last year helping us understand how to recruit people locally.”

Eventually, the Development Foundation will return to connecting with students and employers in person.

But for now, the approach has largely gone online – where young talent already is used to communicating and finding information.

“We’ve always had a multi-faceted approach, and I think our forced shift to online delivery ultimately is going to benefit our efforts going forward,” Guzzetta said. “We’re seeing outstanding engagement from students, schools and businesses in our new virtual programming and we will continue to offer some breadth of that programming going forward because it is so accessible and efficient.”

A recent virtual session with Augustana University students drew dozens of participants looking for jobs and interested in staying in Sioux Falls.

“It’s important to frame when we talk about the job market and unemployment what’s happening from a macro perspective,” Guzzetta said, emphasizing for students how “we’ve done better than the rest of the states as far as keeping people employed. The current unemployment is affecting retail, hospitality and medical offices.” Those industries already are starting to report gains, though, she added.

“The good news here is what shapes our local economy for Sioux Falls is we’re heavily invested in manufacturing, health and social services, we have a very strong network of banks, and we’re starting to see the rebound in hospitality and leisure.”

For Dykhouse, who has helped lead the Build Dakota full-ride scholarship program, the need for health care workers has been pronounced.

“As soon as our health systems get geared back up, we’re again going to see there’s a real shortage for nurses, health care workers across the board,” he said. “And it is interesting when we look at education, rarely does someone get a health care degree and not go on to earn a further degree or go on with further schooling. There’s really a career path there for many in health care.”

Guzzetta encouraged the students to consider the Sioux Falls Advantage – a financially secured place where their income goes farther from the start.

“If you look at our city government, we’re very financially strong. We’re very well managed. We also have a very strong consumer and business-friendly climate,” she said.

“You immediately get the full advantage of not having personal income tax. And there are true quality of life differentiators: Very strong volunteerism, a very vibrant young professional network, very family-oriented, and we have access to great schools and great support centers that enrich and make life here just very, very good.”

She also highlighted additional in-demand professions from computer programmers to accountants.

“We have such high demand, but our supply continues to be lower,” Guzzetta said. “And these jobs are all in the family of STEM – science, technology, engineering, and mathematics – that is something that is going to continue to drive real GDP growth globally.”

She also offered the students resume and interview tips and encouraged them to take advantage of additional virtual programming.

We focus in on specific industries with talent tours and then have a day we set aside when we bring talent in and really put the emphasis on the talent – the students and professionals working here – and showcase all these technical and wonderful skills they have to offer.

At the bank, Dykhouse said he also sees a range of young talent drawn to Sioux Falls – underscoring the need to continue communicating all the city has to offer.

“They looked at Des Moines and Minneapolis and Denver and decided Sioux Falls was a great place to live with a lot of things to do here,” he said.

“The good thing is our economy has not sunk as far as others. As usual, our bottom is not going to be as deep and we will see things picking up again. So, I think there’s opportunity. People will look here and see this as a good place to come. That’s what we want to create.”

To get connected to workforce development opportunities in the Sioux Falls area, visit http://win.siouxfallsdevelopment.com/

Former nurses find mid-career fit at growing healthcare tech company

Their career paths took them into nursing but led them to new opportunities at a growing Sioux Falls health care tech company.

Meghan Bowar, Shana Hennies and Tiffany Solum have found new ways to use their nursing backgrounds, learn new skills and still help with patient care through their roles at Experity. A tech company that began as DocuTap in Sioux Falls, Experity provides technology solutions for on-demand healthcare practices and primary care clinics.

“When you are a nurse, everyone focuses on how you’re able to help people. And when you leave bedside nursing there’s part of you that still wants to hold onto that piece of nursing, and we are able to do that in a different way,” said Hennies, director of implementation.

“We provide technology, but that technology really allows frontline providers and nurses to do their jobs way better. We’re finding solutions for them.”

Virtual approach to workforce development connects talent with employers

BY DENISE M. GUZZETTA, VICE PRESIDENT OF TALENT AND WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT FOR THE SIOUX FALLS DEVELOPMENT FOUNDATION

It is not as easy to walk in for a job interview, start an internship or shadowing – but in some ways, the latest way Sioux Falls is connecting students with employers is just as personal.

The Sioux Falls Development Foundation has stepped up big in the last couple months, hosting and coordinating a series of virtual talent talks that are bringing college students together with employers who will have jobs for them.

“We immediately shifted into a new mode of delivering some of our most key programming,” said Denise Guzzetta, vice president of talent and workforce development.

“Especially with graduation approaching and summer internship opportunities changing, we felt it was important to connect as many area students as possible with organizations we know will have a need for their skills going forward.”

The virtual series of events kicked off with a virtual version of the Development Foundation’s workforce recruitment council meeting, focused on how to keep employees motivated and engaged despite social distances.

We were able to immediately put best practices in front of human resource leaders and executives across our business community at a time when they were needed,” Guzzetta said. “With help from Raven Industries and the Helpline Center, our recruitment council members left with information and resources they could put to work in real time.

Then came a series of virtual talent talks, beginning with a session between Morningside College nursing students and representatives from Sanford Health and the Good Samaritan Society.

“The versatility of talent programming options between in-person to virtual events with the Sioux Falls Development Foundation enables us to efficiently recruit early career talent, such as nurses, who are essential to our organization,” said Jon Runyan, a Sanford Health sourcing specialist who helps with nursing opportunities.

After leaders at Sanford Health and Good Samaritan Society shared more about their organizations and the paths students could take to nursing careers there, students could ask questions live.

“We love collaborating and building new connections,” said Alex Watters, career development specialist at Morningside. “Our students and grads were able to connect virtually with Sanford Health and Good Samaritan Society about jobs, internships and more.”

Another virtual talent talk paired students at Augustana University considering healthcare careers with representatives from Avera Health who shared the range of opportunities the organization offers.

“There is a large benefit as an undergrad to getting in front of employers and hearing their expectations and tips,” said Anna Boyens, a junior majoring in biology and Spanish.

“As a pre-med undergraduate student, I am searching for ways to gain access to the healthcare world to broaden my experiences and solidify my vocation. With so much uncertainty right now, having the opportunity to hear from Avera employers about what the future holds for undergraduate positions was extremely valuable and reassuring to me.”

The format of the presentation allowed her to gain insight from multiple angles and areas of the organization, she said.

“I left the Zoom meeting feeling motivated to do everything in my power to find a position in the healthcare field even if it wasn’t exactly what I had planned,” Boyens said. “COVID-19 has changed many plans, but by being flexible and being presented with many options, I know that it will not halt my career journey.”

For Augustana University, the virtual offerings build on a long relationship with the Development Foundation, said Billie Streufert, assistant vice provost, student success and engagement.

“The Foundation routinely creates high-quality workforce events that seamlessly connect employers, applicants, and educational institutions. These connections fuel innovation, workforce development, and career readiness that transform both the Sioux Falls community and the lives of students,” she said. “Partnerships of this nature are especially valuable during times of economic uncertainty, such as the current pandemic. It signals that, despite COVID-19, there are employers that need employees.”

The virtual programming is an effective and efficient way to pair talent and opportunity, she added.

“The virtual event ensured the safety of everyone involved and eliminated geographical barriers so Augustana students could attend wherever they were located. This was especially beneficial given our move to an online learning environment. We look forward to partnering again in the future.”

The Development Foundation also helped address the area’s need to keep highly skilled computer science graduates in Sioux Falls through a talent talk for students at Dakota State University.

They heard from CentralSquare Technologies, which provides software to the public sector, specifically municipal governments, and public safety entities.

We know the emerging generation of new graduates wants careers where they use their skills to help society,” Guzzetta said. “So, this was a way to introduce a terrific company culture with roles that allow them to do just that.

“We know the emerging generation of new graduates wants careers where they use their skills to help society,” Guzzetta said. “So, this was a way to introduce a terrific company culture with roles that allow them to do just that.”

DSU’s students showed a strong level of interest, with even incoming freshmen attending the event. Graduating senior Jordan Oberg will have a newly earned bachelor’s degree in cyber operations and is planning to start his master’s in computer science in the fall.

“I thought the meeting went well,” he said. “The structure was easy to follow along, and I gathered the information I was looking for. Being a student who is about to graduate, it is good to see all of the options out there.”While the event originally was scheduled as a face-to-face meeting, the change to a virtual event still allowed some great communication between an employer and potential workers, said Janelle Nielsen, DSU’s coordinator of employer relations and events.

“I would like to say, ‘thank you’ to Denise Guzzetta and her team at the Sioux Falls Development Foundation for organizing the talent tour for our DSU students,” she said. “It was very interesting and informative to hear about what this software provider does for the public sector.  CentralSquare Technologies is an employer that will be a great fit for our students seeking internships and graduates pursuing full-time employment. We look forward to having this business become one that will actively recruit our DSU students.”

As part of its ongoing WIN content, the Development Foundation also profiled three women who have grown their careers from nursing into health care technology at homegrown startup Experity. To see their story and view a video of their experience, click here.

“Stories like this illustrate exactly what we’re trying to communicate to students,” Guzzetta said. “You can pursue a career in a field like nursing, and when you decide you want to use your skills in a different evolving field, we have the tech companies here ready and waiting for you with a fulfilling career path.”

The Development Foundation is continuing to offer virtual programming this month and going forward.

“We felt this immediate focus on healthcare and public service careers came at exactly the right time,” Guzzetta said. “But going forward, we will be making connections for students in other industries, including transportation, construction and education. Students feel very comfortable learning in virtual environments, so this is an effective way to meet them where they’re at even when we are able to transition back into more in-person events.”

If your organization would like to participate in a virtual talent talk, contact:

Denise Guzzetta

USD meets growing demand for health care workers with hands-on, high-tech programs

Whether they’re using dental instruments or 3D printers, doing patient simulations or digital image analysis, students at the University of South Dakota likely have health care-related jobs waiting for them when they graduate.

“We have a really powerful system of health care in South Dakota, without question, and they’re also really good jobs,” USD president Sheila Gestring said. “They’re high-demand jobs, and the employment growth projections going forward are also significant.”

The appeal and availability of those jobs is driving student interest in both USD’s School of Health Sciences and its emerging biomedical engineering program within the College of Arts & Sciences.

In many cases, students graduating with degrees from these programs will find their occupations projected to experience double-digit percentage increases.

The School of Health Sciences, founded in 2007, is the fastest-growing school at USD with 2,400 students among 13 major degree programs:

  • Addiction counseling and prevention
  • Dental hygiene
  • Health sciences
  • Medical Laboratory Science
  • Nursing
  • Occupational therapy
  • Paramedic
  • Physical therapy
  • Physician assistant studies
  • Public health
  • Social work

Nearly two-thirds of graduates over the last decade have remained in South Dakota.

“The long-term demand for healthcare professionals is going to continue to increase nationwide and in South Dakota,” said Haifa Abou Samra, dean of the School of Health Sciences.

“it’s expected to range anywhere between 11 to 29 percent depending on the discipline or profession.”

 

In-demand jobs

The dental hygiene program in the School of Health Sciences is so sought after that only about one in two applicants is accepted, and there’s steady demand for graduates.

It’s a unique program, allowing students to staff dental clinics in Sioux Falls and Vermillion serving those in need of dental care, as well as patients on reservations and in prisons.

“I became aware of the value of community involvement through my service as a student in community clinics,” said Hannah Poppens, a Brandon, S.D. native and USD graduate.

“I also benefitted through my work in those clinics, because I learned to serve a variety of patients and that helps me now as a practicing professional.”

Poppens now works in a Sioux Falls dental office, where she landed a position months before graduation.

“My practice offers patient-centered care,” she said. “That’s very important to me, and that’s something my dental hygiene professors taught us to deliver.”

USD’s unique addiction counseling and prevention program also is producing in-demand graduates.

Leon Leader Charge has an especially powerful story. The Parmelee, S.D., native and member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe earned his bachelor of addiction counseling and prevention at USD and now is working on his master’s there. He now works with an organization called Tribal Tech that works with tribes nationwide to create and implement substance abuse and mental health programs and curricula.

At USD, “I learned hands-on science,” he said. “I was taught evidence-based, prevention-based science. Because of my education and training, I am able to help people in my own community, and I’m also able to travel to tribal communities around the country and have a national impact. I am grateful for those opportunities.”

Students like Brooke Miller also know there are jobs waiting after graduation. With one year left in her nursing program, she already has one secured with Avera in her hometown of Pierre.

“It’s just been a whirlwind. Nursing’s been great,” she said, adding she loves the clinical experience students receive and the small-group settings they enjoy with professors to go over what they’re learning.

“We get to go into different hospitals, different settings and work hands-on with patients,” she said.

She will have completed two internships by the time she graduates – one last summer at the South Dakota Women’s Prison and one this coming summer in a hospital setting learning labor and delivery.

“I’m very excited about that and to get that degree,” she said. “And then I’ll be working in South Dakota and giving back to my community. I’ve always loved that small town community, and I want to give back.”

While Miller will be returning to her roots, other USD nursing graduates are recruited nationwide.

“Last year we had students who went to Arizona, Colorado, Mayo Clinic, Philadelphia, so national employers compete for our students,” Samra said.

“And we have more interested nursing students than we have the capacity to admit. We aren’t able to admit all the qualified students who apply, because of space limitations.”

To better accommodate demand for these and other health services programs, USD is hoping to replace an aging facility with a modern 45,000-square-foot building that will add contemporary classrooms, simulation and lab spaces.

“It will allow us to expand these programs, admit students who are wait-listed and fuel the workforce, because there will be more graduates available to employers,” Gestring said.

And employers definitely are interested in partnering to secure students. The School of Health Sciences leverages affiliations with more than 1,000 businesses and organizations that offer students work experience while in college.

Those public-private partnerships are becoming more and more critical, and we’re finding that sharing expertise, sharing the resources can really have a much greater impact than trying to do those sorts of things on your own,” Gestring said.

Biomedical programs take off

Education, research and industry all are coming together in Sioux Falls, where USD is growing its undergraduate and graduate programs in biomedical engineering. The department is part of the College of Arts & Sciences, and students often take courses both in Sioux Falls and Vermillion.

The growing biomedical field integrates engineering and medicine to address challenges in health care, exposing students to everything from medical device development to digital software-based analysis of medical images.

“It’s really an emerging industry in South Dakota,” Gestring said. “Our bachelor’s program is still very, very new but we do have nearly 20 students in that program. And our PhD program is full. We cannot accept very many, as it’s a very demanding curriculum.”

Sioux Falls resident Tim Hartman is one of USD’s first biomedical engineering undergraduates. He began by earning an associate’s degree in integrated science, taking courses in Sioux Falls, and decided to progress into the undergraduate program.

“I’m more of an equipment kind of person than working with patients, and this allows me to do that,” he said. “I work with high-tech microscopes and I’m working in a lab now where we’re making software for imaging and I’ve found I really like that.”

He could see himself pursuing a graduate degree and focusing on bioinformatics or computational biology – areas where he knows expertise is needed in the medical field.

“It’s a numbers field – a way to replace subjective human insight with automated computer analysis, and you can also incorporate machine learning,” Hartman said.

He had considered going to college out of state, but was impressed by USD’s vision for its Sioux Falls presence – which includes the Graduate Education and Applied Research Center, or GEAR Center, where he takes some of his classes and receives hands-on experience. The planned USD Discovery District adjacent to the property will allow for further commercialization of innovations and provide students with early career experience.

“There’s a lot of investment being made in biotech in the Sioux Falls area,” he said. “It would be awesome if this became like the Silicon Valley of biotech. That’s a vision I could latch onto.”

He’s not alone. USD anticipates more student interest as the biomedical program and its industry partnerships continue to grow.

“It’s an incredible opportunity having the GEAR Center right there on site,” Gestring said. “We have had several businesses, startups, incubate there and really get a start. And one of the future tenants of the Discovery District is currently in that building and waiting for the construction of the new facility.”

Students increasingly are remaining in the state to apply what they learn, she added.

“We’re finding our graduates stay in South Dakota,” Gestring said. “We’ve had 20 PhD graduates and 12 of them are leaders in the state right now.”

That also meets a broader goal for USD, she added: Preparing the state’s future leaders, regardless of the degree program they complete.

“It’s important for USD to always provide those community leaders,” Gestring said.

“From the state’s attorney office to the superintendents of schools to the leaders in health care and throughout the business community, many of them have gone through USD. And these also are active volunteers on nonprofit boards, school boards and city governing boards. The most important thing for USD is to continue that tradition of providing leaders to communities.”

New additions to ag education prepare students for jobs of the future

One look at some of the newest additions to South Dakota State University make it clear: Ag-related education is changing.

“We’re doing things that are really relevant to all the real, major grand challenges that face society today,” said John Killefer, the South Dakota Corn-Endowed Dean of the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences.

There are 2,000 undergraduates and 300 graduate students in the college, spread across 23 majors. Many of them are working and learning in facilities unlike any other in the country – preparing them for a huge range of in-demand jobs.

“There’s probably never been a more exciting time to be in this type of college for a student in the future than it is today,” Killefer said.

Animal disease, research

The newly expanded Animal Disease Research and Diagnostic Laboratory is likely “the most high-tech, modern facility of its kind between Minneapolis and Denver,” Killefer said.

The lab has served the state with veterinary diagnostic services since 1887, and the staff is nationally recognized for their skill in diagnosing key diseases of cattle, pigs and other livestock as well as supporting veterinarians statewide, identifying zoonotic diseases such as rabies and keeping the food supply safe by testing for bacteria that cause food-borne illness.

It runs about 500,000 tests annually and employs 60 full-time staff.

The building recently added 80,000 square feet, allowing more room for testing as well as a biosafety level three lab.

“It’s a higher level of biosecurity. A lot of our research has to do with infectious diseases … diseases that can be passed between animals and people and vice versa,” said Jane Hennings, the lab’s director and head of the department of veterinary and medical sciences.

“If we have to deal with things such as highly pathogenic avian influenza, which we did in the 2015 outbreak, we’ll be able to test in that specific area and it allows for better biocontainment and worker safety, similar to a quarantine room in a hospital.”

Recent research has focused on influenza D, a virus first isolated at SDSU in a diseased pig in 2011 and later found in cattle.

Students are highly involved in the research work throughout the building.

They get to work with our researchers, developing new technologies, new diagnostic tests, and these students are getting a lot of job opportunities in the biotech industry,” Killefer said.

The building also serves as classroom space, where faculty teach small and large animal medicine and surgery, epidemiology and other science-related courses needed for veterinary medicine.

“I love my program,” said Elle Moon, a Wall High School graduate who is pursuing veterinary medicine. “We’re one of the programs that has the most hands-on opportunity.”

She also is one of many students who works in the lab, helping perform animal autopsies.

“It’s just a fantastic opportunity,” she said. “You actually get to sit there and watch the pathologists do their autopsy.”

Next up: A Professional Program in Veterinary Medicine that will allow doctor of veterinary medicine students to take their first two years of courses at SDSU and their second two years at the University of Minnesota. The first class of 20 students is scheduled to begin in the fall of 2021.

“We hope to attract students who really want to get into the food animal area of veterinary medicine, because there are less and less students going into that area,” Hennings said. “There are only four or five ‘two plus two’ programs in the country. And we believe we’ll be able to offer a lot more hands-on experience with a class of 20, as most veterinary schools have 100 to 140 in a given class. We’ll be able to take more field trips, talk to veterinarians in the state and give more individual attention.”

Nationally recognized swine center

When Wisconsin native Katelyn Zeamer was looking for a graduate school, SDSU easily stood out thanks to its Swine Education and Research Facility, which opened in 2016.

“The technology is out of this world. There’s nothing else like it,” said Zeamer, who is studying swine nutrition.

The building is unique in a number of ways – including that it is an actual working unit, farrowing two dozen sows a month, and it allows for public viewing of its operations.

“Our classroom design is so that we can bring a pig into the classroom,” said Joe Cassady, animal science department head.

“But we also take the students into the barn itself where they literally have a chance to get their hands on a pig and be part of all the processing steps.”

There’s a lot of research that takes place here, too, including around nutrition and physiology.

The program has grown from 400 to 450 undergraduates in animal science in the last five years.

“The availability of this facility has been critical to that,” Cassady said. “Students from all over the upper Midwest come to South Dakota because they’re interested in the pig industry and we can provide them a hands-on opportunity that is much different than anywhere else they would go.”

For Zeamer, it’s been an invaluable experience. Along with serving as a lab instructor for younger students, she is working with Operation Main Street – a partnership with the National Pork Board – to give virtual tours of the swine facility from her smart phone.

She recently toured a group of executives from Aldi.

“We’re bringing people into the barn via my cell phone,” she said. “People from cooks to dieticians, nurses, a lot of people who aren’t connected with agriculture to open their eyes to see what’s happening inside our barn and give them a better picture of where their food comes from and how it’s produced.”

Job prospects for students such as Zeamer are very strong, Cassady added.

And those students are typically going out with higher than average salaries because the demand for human capital in the swine industry exceeds the supply,” he said. “That was another reason we built this facility – to be a major supplier of that human capital that the industry really needs.

Precision ag center under construction

SDSU was the first university in the country to offer a four-year degree in precision agriculture, and soon there will be a first-of-its-kind building to support the program.

The Raven Precision Agriculture Center is a $46 million, 130,000-square-foot building that is designed with the goal of creating an “innovation ecosystem,” Killefer said.

“We are going to integrate disciplines together,” he said.

Envision a building where a faculty member who specializes in agronomy has an office between someone who specializes in ag engineering and someone who specializes in data analytics.

“That should create an enriched environment where faculty can address complex problems and challenges associated with agriculture,” Killefer said.

Building namesake Raven Industries already has a strong partnership with SDSU, which provides a pipeline of workers for its precision agriculture division. The company provided $5 million toward the new center and also plans to do research there.

“The students that are going to come from it are definitely important to us, but that’s not the only reason that compelled us to make the investment,” Raven CEO Dan Rykhus said.

“In addition to making sure we have taken in the state, as ag changes and uses technology different, universities and academia need to develop different practices like they did with biotech. Industry can do a lot to develop products and services and applications, but universities play a role in doing research on ag practices and validating that.”

Raven also was impressed by SDSU’s multidisciplinary approach, Rykhus said.

“We need engineers, we need agronomists, we need people who understand biology, we need all those talents at Raven. and SDSU built a precision ag program that isn’t just built on agriculture. It draws on engineering and data analysis and lots of elements that are part of SDSU and drawn into it.”

POET also invested recently in the building, with a $2 million contribution that will support construction. The Sioux Falls-based company also will have dedicated office space in Brookings at the SDSU Research Park as it pursues enhanced research partnerships and will be working with SDSU to develop academic programs in bioprocessing.

The goal is to help graduates gain “a robust understanding of how biofuels and agriculture can drive change across the globe,” POET said in announcing the gift.

“If we want to return to a healthy planet, we will once again need to lean on agriculture, in combination with biofuels and bioproducts, to replace fossil fuels and their derivatives. This gift supports South Dakota’s future farmers, who will need to cultivate even more sustainable ag practices for future generations.“ POET founder and CEO Jeff Broin said.

The skills learned in the precision agriculture program – including elements of data analytics, engineering and agribusiness – translate well at POET, recruiting business partner Katie Wiseman said.

“Plus the students tend to have roots in the area, and we like to be able to provide an exciting career opportunity right here in South Dakota,” she said. “We have plenty of SDSU alumni who are super excited to join us at career fairs at SDSU, so we have a lot of interest and support from POET toward that school.”

Southeast Tech building programs to meet industry needs

Originally Published by Sioux Falls.Business

Fifty years ago, Southeast Tech began in Sioux Falls with six programs and fewer than 100 students.

A half-century later, it’s grown to 60 programs and more than 2,400 students.

“It’s up from last year again, so it’s nice to see that continued interest in trades and technical careers,” said Robert Griggs, who is beginning his third school year as Southeast Tech’s president.

Southeast Tech helps prepare students to secure jobs in the Sioux Falls area by tailoring its program offerings to match areas where workers are needed. That’s resulted in programs teaching skills in the following areas: Business, Transportation Technology, Horticulture, Industrial Technology, Media Communications, Healthcare, Engineering Technology, Law Enforcement, Early Childhood, Information Technology, Agriculture and Technical Studies.

“What’s really critical is that Southeast Tech respond to industry needs,” Griggs said. “In order to do that, we need to be in constant communication and conversation with industry representatives about what they see as current demand and what opportunities are going to exist for careers in the future.”

This school year brought a new program to train medical assistants, developed in response to needs from the healthcare field and with curriculum help from Avera Health and Sanford Health.

“They indicated they have a huge demand and need for medical assistants, and it’s a program we did not previously offer,” Griggs said. “It’s a one-year program that equips an individual to provide a variety of services.”

Southeast Tech is continually evolving and offering new opportunities for students to advance their career options – especially the estimated one-third of high school graduates in the Sioux Falls area who don’t seek post-secondary education.

Here’s a look at what’s coming next:

Dental Assisting

Southeast Tech will start a Dental Assisting diploma in the fall of 2020, allowing students to fast-track their way to a dental career.

It grew out of a dental apprenticeship program that began two years ago.

“And through conversations with the industry they have encouraged us to move it from an apprenticeship program to a one-year diploma program,” Griggs said. “A number of dental offices have contributed not only ideas but donated equipment and other resources to help us get the program launched.”

Working under the director of dentists and dental hygienists, dental assistants provide direct patient care, assist in dental procedures, perform dental radiography, offer patient education and perform office duties.

The curriculum is being developed to meet standards by the Commission on Dental Accreditation with help from the Southeastern District Dental Society, part of the South Dakota Dental Association, which includes 145 area dentists.

There will be space for 25 to 30 students per year.

“I think it will help meet the strong demand that area dentists are seeing,” Griggs said. “That’s being driven by population growth and the growth in our number of dental offices. We have seen a number of good relationships form already as our dentists have graduates from the apprenticeship program working in their offices today.”

Veterinary Programs

Two new programs in veterinary care will start in the fall of 2020.

A Veterinary Assistant one-year diploma will prepare workers to help evaluate and treat basic health, injuries and illnesses of large and small animals.

The Veterinary Technician two-degree degree prepares students to support veterinarians in evaluating and treating large and small animals by performing medical tests under a vet’s supervision and by providing assistance to biomedical researchers and other scientists.

The new programs help fill a void in the market created when Globe University closed.

“South Dakota has been without a Veterinary Technician program the last two years, so students that want to pursue that career are traveling out of state,” Griggs said.

“There have been a number of partners that have provided expertise in helping develop our curriculum and helped us with a facility and renovations.”

Partners have included Smithfield Foods and McCrossan Boys Ranch. The ranch will allow students to study large animal veterinary care on site.

“McCrossan Boys Ranch is thrilled to create a partnership with Southeast Tech,” executive director Brian Roegiers said. “We look forward to supplying the large animals to aid in the practical part of the program. We see this as a ‘win-win’ situation as both parties gain through this unique connection. Needed veterinary services are a plus for McCrossan while Southeast Tech has animals provided to help train young minds for the future of veterinary medicine.”

Southeast Tech “worked quite heavily with industry in terms of what they saw as the need, as well as with Globe University faculty that were part of the program and with veterinarians helping deliver the curriculum,” Griggs said.

While veterinary education programs traditionally are expensive to deliver, Southeast Tech is focused on keeping costs down for students. The programs will be able to accommodate 20 to 30 students each year.

“A capital campaign is focused on finding scholarship opportunities for students so that we can provide greater access,” Griggs said.

New Certificates

Southeast Tech offers semester-long certificate programs designed to give students skills that are immediately applicable in the workplace.

New this year are three construction-related certificates: General Construction, Residential Construction and Commercial Construction. They were developed in cooperation with the Associated General Contractors and the Home Builders Association of the Sioux Empire Inc.

“And all those are stackable, meaning they are part of a larger program,” Griggs said. “In our case, it’s a Construction Management program, so they can choose to continue on to a degree, but they can start out with a certificate to find out if that’s an area of interest for them. And that certificate provides enough basic knowledge and skills that they can get a job.”

Other certificates are offered in I.T. and welding.

Next up: A Telecommunications Tower Technician certificate program being proposed will be presented to the State Board of Technical Education in October.

It’s being developed with help from Vikor Teleconstruction in Sioux Falls and is designed to train wireless infrastructure technicians who will help with 5G expansion.

Talent Draft Day 

Southeast Tech will be one of several schools participating in the first Talent Draft Day, organized by the Sioux Falls Development Foundation.

It’s a chance for students from Southeast Tech and other schools to rotate through three sessions of content and interact with businesses hiring for careers in advanced manufacturing, computer science, general construction, healthcare, informational technology and precision mechanics.

To learn more, visit http://win.siouxfallsdevelopment.com/eventinfo/13

Participating businesses and talented students will:

  • Network and connect to discuss part-time jobs, internships, job shadows and full-time careers;
  • Participate in talent showcases, which allows each technical institute’s faculty and students to demonstrate a glimpse into the skills-based training that the students receive as part of their education;
  • Attend a capstone presentation by Think3D Solutions;
  • Engage in carnival-style game entertainment – with prizes! – while enjoying food and beverages.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for nontraditional students to find out about a lot of different careers that Southeast Tech can prepare them for,” Griggs said.

“When I talk with industry leaders, they tell me the biggest hurdle they have is finding the skilled workforce. In some cases, they’re turning down work because of it. This is a way for us to match talent with opportunities that exist in a wide variety of area businesses.”

USF evolves approach to fit changing workforce needs

Originally Published by SiouxFalls.Business

As the University of Sioux Falls class of 2019 received its diplomas this month, the school’s president, Brett Bradfield, knows each person could migrate out of his or her field seven or eight times during the career ahead.

Preparing students for that unpredictable future means continually honing the education provided and increasingly working closely with industry to connect and equip students for the workplace.

“It doesn’t necessarily take a complete retooling. You take majors that have always been solid, but you reconsider how they fit into the current paradigm of the employment needed in our community,” Bradfield said.

“We believe our liberal arts portion of our education ensures that many of the so-called soft skills and important dispositional attributes employers are looking for beyond specific job skills are present in our students.”

The approach was a success for 2016 graduate Teagan Molden and Howalt+McDowell Insurance, a Marsh & McLennan Agency LLC company, thanks to an internship after Molden’s junior year.

“I wouldn’t have even known about Howalt if not for USF and the staff there,” said Molden, who came to the university from Minnesota and was a standout on the NSIC championship basketball team.

She gained hands-on experience at the firm, going out on client calls and organizing a LinkedIn training for the entire office.

When she returned to USF her senior year, she continued working part time.

Bradfield knew a bond had been built between student and employer when he walked into a basketball game and saw the Howalt+McDowell executive team there cheering on Molden.

“They had been so pleased with her in their office; they told me that evening their intent was to hire her.”

Molden now has spent three years at the firm as an adviser in the client employee health and benefits department.

I think the business school helped me a lot in developing my core competencies and helping me get the internship and preparing me for my career,” she said.

USF has a strong record of similar success.

Of the students in the class of 2018 who responded to a survey, 99 percent had found full- or part-time work or went to graduate school.

Many come from USF’s undergraduate and graduate business programs, which include degrees in finance and accounting; its three nursing programs, which include an MBA in health care management; and its education program, which offers undergraduate and graduate degrees.

“Most of our nursing students will already have job offers before they graduate,” Bradfield said. “We have great success, and we consider it an honor to support the city, state and region that supports us.”

USF began the 2018-19 school year with record enrollment, counting about 1,550 students among undergraduate, graduate and adult learning programs.

New offerings include a concentration within the media studies major in social media marketing, as well as a certificate program designed for those already working.

“There’s a very large market for that, and we’re in that with both feet as a university,” Bradfield said.

The school also weaves in what he calls “the hidden curriculum.” It’s an emphasis on skills especially valuable in the workplace.

It’s how we talk about the importance of work ethic, responsibility, team play, collaboration, entrepreneurial spirit in the sense that you’re a problem-solver. So it’s not necessarily trying to start your own business but being a problem-solver who can bring new ideas into the business climate.

Originally Published by SiouxFalls.Business

USF is trying to become even more connected in the business community, leading to the sorts of opportunities that matched students like Molden with employers such as Howalt+McDowell.

“We see a real benefit in that because it allows our students to take the theoretical constructs they learn in the classroom and add experiential learning,” Bradfield said. “And the business community is finding there’s a real advantage to this, and they take on students and work with them and find those that are promising.”

At Howalt+McDowell, the firm has worked with its partners in higher education, and it has honed its recruitment strategy.

That includes speaking to college students on campus, offering firm tours and structuring its internship program so students receive broad exposure to jobs at the firm and can choose which areas interest them.

“USF is a great school. There’s no question about that,” Howalt’s chief innovation officer Kira Kimball said. “We’ve worked with USF for our internship program in others ways, and I think the liberal arts education is a great background. You learn a lot of critical thinking skills, good reading and writing skills. That’s pretty foundational. We can train on all the technical expertise, but that sets a really firm foundation.”

And while USF has a 135-year legacy in the city, Bradfield realizes that preparing students for a changing workplace is what will sustain the school for future learners.

“As the city has grown and the economy has grown, we have grown with it,” he said. “We see that as a great blessing for us because honestly in the state of higher education across the nation … with complete respect to other parts of the nation, I’m certainly glad we’re in Sioux Falls.”

Workforce development priorities focus on drawing talent, educating for future needs

Originally Published by SiouxFalls.Business
Kurt Loudenback knows what it’s like to have to hire dozens of people to keep a business growing.

That’s what success has meant for Grand Prairie Foods, the company he and his wife, Valerie, have grown into a national provider of food products to the hospitality industry.

About a year ago, there were 150 employees. Now, that number has grown to more than 200.

 

We believe we’ll be well over 225, maybe pushing 250 by midsummer,” Loudenback said. “We use many hiring methods, and we’ve been able to do it, but in today’s low unemployment environment, that’s not easy to do.

Grand Prairie could be a proverbial poster child, though, for workforce development efforts in Sioux Falls.

The company has been a leader in working to connect the refugee and immigrant population with job opportunities. In return, word of mouth has led to more workers. Grand Prairie also works closely with LSS to help build a pipeline of potential employees.

“My message is don’t try to do everything internally,” Loudenback said. “It’s important to be engaged in the community and important to understand the resources available.”

The Sioux Falls Development Foundation strives to be the place for businesses to connect to those resources, and with new leadership and a renewed focus on workforce development, it’s a significant priority for this year and beyond.

“Workforce development is the predominant discussion we hear from businesses, and it’s across the board from skilled trades to professional trades,” said Bob Mundt, the foundation’s president.

“Everyone needs workers: The service industry, manufacturing, processing, banks, insurance, everyone is looking for people.”

It can be a broad and daunting topic to tackle, but the Development Foundation is guided by a strategic action agenda set forth in the most recent five-year Forward Sioux Falls campaign.

These interlocking circles show how the foundation blends talent attraction and retention with talent development efforts.

Leading the effort is Denise Guzzetta, who joined the foundation in late 2018 as vice president of talent and workforce development. Her background includes two decades in the global finance and benefit industries with Fortune 50 companies.

“Denise has the credibility within the corporate arena to bring meaningful change. Her experience in creating new career development initiatives necessary for economic growth provides an effective platform to connect with the human resource community,” Mundt said.

“She’s aligning all of the pieces necessary to fully implement the strategic workforce action agenda. From students to educators to HR and business leaders, she has the background we need to connect with all those populations.”

In her first few months, Guzzetta has laid out a robust plan for advancing the strategic action.

“The Development Foundation’s role is to make sure that businesses have what they need in order to expand,” she said. “And the largest component of that is a very engaged, educated workforce. It’s critical. It’s the No. 1 need we have today.”

Dave Rozenboom agrees. The president of First Premier Bank also chairs the joint venture management committee of Forward Sioux Falls.

“As a banker, we have a lot of customers who are in business, and the No. 1 theme I hear is the single biggest limiting factor our customers have, and the business community has at large, to continue to grow and expand their business or own economy would be the labor shortages that we face,” he said.

“If you look at the Sioux Falls metropolitan area and you look back 25 years, you look back 50 years, clearly we’ve benefited from a rural-to-urban migration. And now as you look at the next 25 years, you realize that probably isn’t going to repeat itself, certainly at the same level.”

That requires the community to grow its population from alternative sources, including urban-to-urban migration and the immigrant and refugee population, he said.

The area also is challenged by its high labor force participation rate, which Rozenboom estimates is 74 percent to 75 percent of people age 18 to 65, compared with the national rate of 62 percent.

“We know we’ve got a population here that likes to work,” he said. “They’ve got a strong work ethic. The challenge is we’ve probably maximized as much of the labor participation rate as we can get, so we’ll really be dependent on population growth to provide that workforce for the future.”

Targeted approach

The Development Foundation’s approach to workforce development starts with the number 2,173. That’s how many post-secondary students have been identified in a 100-mile radius with education in fields where area businesses need expertise.

“They represent finance, general business, engineers, construction trades, health care trades, precision mechanical trades. We need those people here now to fulfill the needs of the community,” Guzzetta said.

“The No. 1 thing this year is to pull more talent into the area. We’re focusing heavily on bringing them in through talent tours, talent draft days, and we’re looking at targeting an expanded radius by working with our area colleges and technical institutes to reach out to their alumni about opportunities to come back to the area.”

The foundation also remains nimble in its approach to worker outreach. Grand Prairie Foods has seen the benefit of that firsthand.

When Gold’n Plump closed its chicken-processing plant in Luverne, Minn., in late 2017, the Development Foundation led targeted marketing efforts directed at displaced workers.

“We ended up hiring half a dozen skilled positions from that facility in our company,” Loudenback said. “I can’t say directly what brought us those people, but certainly the total campaign had a positive effect. That’s an example of what it’s done for us and what we believe is an opportunity to help attract talented folks in the region.”

Community effort

Achieving those big goals will take participation from across the business community and represents an opportunity for businesses to get involved.

Loudenback has stepped up already by chairing the workforce-talent committee for the Development Foundation, helping develop workforce strategies.

“There’s an internal and an external effort,” he said. “Internally, we want to make sure there’s engagement with businesses and the education community in Sioux Falls to ensure we’re meeting their future workforce needs. The external component involves outreach to education institutions in surrounding states and to individuals to essentially recruit from those communities.”

Guzzetta has formed a recruitment council with committees working on talent acquisition, talent incentives and career-based training. There has been strong interest from the business community, but others can still participate.

My message to businesses is to get your people involved with us, come work with us, be part of this community, and we develop talent programming and get engaged,” she said.

The Development Foundation will continue to share information, resources and best practices through its Workforce Information Now digital portal.

Achieving the goals of the strategic action agenda and building the pipelines necessary for best-in-class workforce development will take time, Mundt added.

“Be patient,” he urged businesses. “Get connected by participating in our talent programs, our recruiting programs, job fairs we’ll be having, our WIN content, and if you have questions or comments or criticisms, call us.”

It’s a collective, community effort to develop the future workforce, he said.

“It will take us doing our job at the Development Foundation but also will take companies doing their job to create the type of environment people want to be part of, remaining flexible in their benefits programs and hiring practices and being open-minded to new ideas and maybe new populations.”

Back at Grand Prairie Foods, Loudenback echoed that sentiment.

“There’s a vibrant process in place now to make sure the needs are defined, and there’s communication going on to make sure the workforce is educated to meet those needs,” he said. “Let’s continue to build Sioux Falls as a community together, and let’s not try to do it independently.”