Career Connections program
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Following strong year for workforce development, Sioux Falls Development Foundation to build on successful programs

  • February 22, 2023

The high school student who walks into a business for the first time and walks out with a career interest.

The college student who discovers Sioux Falls as an appealing city to live and finds an internship that leads to a first job.

The adult who lands a promotion thanks to upskilling for an in-demand occupation.

They’re all examples of those served through an in-depth, strategic workforce development approach through the Sioux Falls Development Foundation that’s reaching those at multiple career stages nationwide.

“2022 has been a huge year for us. Since 2019, we’ve turned pilot programs into really mature processes. When I started, there was a goal of helping people, but we needed a broader strategy,” said Denise Guzzetta, vice president of talent and workforce development. “Our program continued to grow even with COVID as our strategical tactics allowed us to step into a digital, social strategy like never before, and we’re really reaching people.”

That’s also creating measurable results. For instance, in 2022, more than 22,000 people had a direct workforce connection, participating in one of the Sioux Falls Development Foundation’s 13 talent and workforce programs.

In the Career Connections program, 87 percent of seniors participating went on to further their education after graduation, including 11 Build Dakota scholars.

career connections program

The program, which immerses high schoolers seeking career direction in participating businesses, has generated growing interest from schools, students and businesses.

“During the spring and fall, we had more than 800 kids come through Career Connections, and that was a significant increase from our previous year’s pilot program,” Guzzetta said. “As we look at how to efficiently and effectively move people into the workforce, our greatest opportunity is people we have right here. This is a way to invest in them, remove barriers, address challenges and do so in partnership.”

This year, the program will add a certificate option, “so we’re influencing skilled workforce and getting people into education, so they can have a viable sustainable career whatever their situation,” Guzzetta said. “Now, they’re climbing and accelerating, and in many cases thriving.”

career connections program

Connecting businesses with college students also is an enhanced focus for the Sioux Falls Development Foundation. In 2022, the foundation hired its first talent development coordinator, Claire Herbst, as part of building “a comprehensive offering for internships,” Guzzetta said.

“We’re looking at how we can serve smaller to midsized organizations that needed help sourcing talent, and how do we help them engage that talent and offer an experience in return to help them build a consistent pipeline.”

Through other programs, “we’ve helped businesses work through how to select the right candidate with the right skills and then engage them effectively and build a culture where they don’t want to leave,” she continued. “We’ll continue that approach, and then we’ll leverage Claire and her skills to actively engage on college campuses and make sure students know about the variety of opportunities our businesses are offering.”

For those already in the workforce, the Sioux Falls Development Foundation also is helping focus on building needed skills. The new Upskill Sioux Falls program helped 109 workers earn a commercial driver’s license last year in partnership with Southeast Technical College.

“We started it as construction season was ramping up, and we knew the community wanted us to find a way to train efficiently for those who needed a CDL,” Guzzetta said. “Southeast Tech developed a great way to train people, and they dedicated resources and equipment and expertise, and that’s something we’ll continue to build on.”

semi trucks parked in a line

This year, Upskill Sioux Falls will add a focus on technical skills.

“Seventy-five percent of us in the workforce are going to continually need to retrain on technology, so this summer we will offer a program in that area where we know businesses need help and we can have an effect,” Guzzetta said.

By the numbers, it’s clear the workforce strategies employed by the Development Foundation are gaining traction.

For instance, in 2022, there were 304 relationships created with post-secondary educational partners, providing career advice and guidance to early career professionals – up from 252 in 2021.

More than 800 high school and college students completed job shadows or internships supported by Development Foundation programs in 2022, nearly double the number in 2021.

And more than 9 million digital impressions were created through recruitment and engagement campaigns designed to draw interest in Sioux Falls and its career opportunities – up from 2.8 million in 2021.

“Add to that our ongoing high-touch efforts, including Your Future STEM classroom engagement, our Talent Thursday live interview series, our popular online content profiling newcomers to the community and our successful outreach during the Summit League basketball tournament, and you get a sense for the comprehensive approach we take to workforce development,” Guzzetta said.

“We know we are looking at generational change in terms of how people engage, so we’re very committed to meeting them where they’re at with content and experience that connect. We’re excited to build on so many of these successful strategies.”

To connect, learn more

Join the Sioux Falls Development Foundation’s Recruitment Council – a group for any who want to further connect and advance workforce solutions in the business community.

Monthly education sessions offer cutting-edge information on emerging workforce themes, culminating in the annual WIN in Workforce Summit in the fall.

“We have so much interest that often the sessions are virtual, but that also makes it cost-efficient and able to fit your work life so you can invest in yourself and your organization without taking a lot of time away from work,” Guzzetta said.

The next Workforce Recruitment Council event will be held virtually from 10 to 11 a.m. Feb. 28 and will focus on the top three trends to know in order to remain competitive to attract and retain top talent.

Click here to register for this free event.