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Winning in the Workforce: Strategy Shift Pays Off with Record Results in 2020

  • February 15, 2021

2020 A Talent Year in Review

As 2020 showed, strengthening the current and future Sioux Falls workforce can take many shapes.

The year that started with massive crowds at the Summit League basketball championships and classrooms filled with hands-on activity ended with hybrid events and virtual talent spotlights.

But while the strategy shifted, the storyline remained consistent: Sioux Falls is laying a foundation at all levels for the talent needed now and in the future.

“Economic development in 2020 challenged us to think and act differently,” said Denise Guzzetta, vice president of talent and workforce development at the Sioux Falls Development Foundation.

“Innovative programming and technology turned lessons and challenges into advantages. Achievements in business attraction and talent management programming established new records for our team in Sioux Falls, although no one may entirely predict the future.”

Connecting organizations with top talent

now and in the future

While events were structured differently, they reached more people than ever.

The Development Foundation tripled its programming events in 2020, resulting in 48 percent more talent engagement programming participation.

From talent tours of businesses to the launch of Career Connections for high school students to monthly Recruitment Council meetings, the Development Foundation hosted 68 individual programming events throughout 2020.

Nearly 5,000 people were introduced directly to educational and employment partners and opportunities using different techniques to connect and continue the conversations beyond initial introductions.

In November, the second annual Talent Draft Day drew more than 1,900 people into the Sioux Falls community using a hybrid combination of virtual attendance and on-site attendance at Southeast Technical College. The Talent Draft Day telecast started the day with interactive training camps for middle and high school students to demonstrate first-hand the value of technical, practical and hands-on learning.

“Students demonstrated technical and hard skills to prospective employers during morning sessions, and we engaged middle school students directly about 11 industrial and health specialties’ technical skills,” Guzzetta said.

Sessions were livestreamed to five school districts on multiple social media platforms, bringing students inside hands-on programs at Southeast Tech and offering live employer discussions focusing on culture, professional development and accessible housing.

The Talent Draft Day telecast moved into afternoon sessions using employer commercials and live social media discussions to connect 1,251 college students from 87 schools to employers, sharing their own decisions about why they continue to live and work in the Sioux Falls region.

The Development Foundation focused its engagements by targeting key college majors from those 87 colleges located throughout 11 states. By concentrating on crucial areas such as computer science, engineering, finance, industrial trades and skilled health care, the Development Foundation connected talent to interested employers.

“We are continuing to see people move to South Dakota due to our higher quality-of-life standards,” Guzzetta said.

That’s likely to continue. A report from United Van Lines showed that of its recent moves involving South Dakota, 62 percent were people moving into the state, while 38 percent were people moving out.

That ties the state for third among the top inbound states with Arizona and just behind South Carolina and Oregon.

We are continuing to see people move to South Dakota due to our higher quality-of-life standards

Denise Guzzetta, Vice President of Talent & Workforce Development

The Development Foundation also launched Career Connections, an initiative focusing on the talent available within community high schools. Combining career awareness and exposure to multiple industries, mentorships and post-secondary education options are used to “up-skill” and supply more available talent in the marketplace.

“With the support of our employers and school districts, Career Connections is a game-changer for our students and our community,” Guzzetta said.

The program launched in August 2020 with 59 students and five organizations and has grown to more than 450 students from six area school districts for August 2021.

“Throughout 2020, our partners responded positively to our new and innovative programs,” Guzzetta said. “They gained very tangible outcomes in terms of reduced costs and lower administrative burden involved in talent recruitment. At the same time, some reported greater participation leading to organizational diversity and inclusion goals.”

Attraction in 2021 and beyond

The year ahead will build on the success of 2020’s workforce development programming, with particular attention to engagement events that attract top talent and build trust.

“Whether we’re reaching them digitally or in person, it’s critical to meet talent where they are at,” Guzzetta said. “For college students, this could mean continuing to leverage digital platforms like Handshake, where we are actively engaged with thousands of students already. Or as we target specific industries, we’ll be reaching out to trade organizations such as HOSA-Future Health Professionals or Programmers Guild.”

As South Dakota companies continue to expand their geographical footprints to support existing and new customers, the Development Foundation has a variety of available resources to support growth initiatives, including:

  • Talent attraction programs to engage skilled, technical and professional early- to mid-career workers to organizations. These include Talent Tours, Talent Now, Talent Thursdays, Talent Rebounds and Talent Draft Days.
  • Talent development programs to support early-career awareness about the industries and occupations available within the Sioux Falls region. These programs include job shadows and internships, creating more skilled and productive labor. The programs encourage various educational and employment pathways to provide more significant support and guidance essential to managing a productive labor force. Examples include Your Future STEM for middle schools and Career Connections for high schools.

“We have the framework, the experience and the relationships to help businesses meet their workforce needs,” Guzzetta said.

“We encourage any businesses looking to attract or retain talent or to increase community partnerships to reach out to us. We know we have ways to support you.”

Get connected

Mark your calendar for noon Feb. 25 when the Sioux Falls Development Foundation presents “Talent Lessons 2021.” This virtual session will cover the top five talent branding tips to make organizations more authentic, memorable and attractive to early-career talent.

Click here to learn more and register. 

And tune in on Facebook every week for Talent Thursday, when SiouxFalls.Business and the Sioux Falls Development Foundation partner to highlight talent in the Sioux Falls area. Click here to find the videos.

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