Instead of stealing workers from each other, Colorado and South Dakota want to partner

Gov. Dennis Daugaard was in Denver on Monday talking about the regional need to expand career opportunities for students, graduates and displaced workers.

Western Governors' Workforce Development Initiative Colorado Workshop at the Art Hotel in Denver, Colorado,   Sept 18, 2017.  (Ellen Jaskol/Western Governors'  Association)
Western Governors' Workforce Development Initiative Colorado Workshop at the Art Hotel in Denver, Colorado, Sept 18, 2017. (Ellen Jaskol/Western Governors' Association)
Western Governors’ Workforce Development Initiative Colorado Workshop at the Art Hotel in Denver, Colorado, Sept 18, 2017. (Ellen Jaskol/Western Governors’ Association)

The governor of South Dakota wants Colorado and other Western states to team up on tackling workforce shortages that could be keeping companies away and slowing economic growth.

Gov. Dennis Daugaard was in Denver on Monday talking about the regional need to expand career opportunities for students, graduates and displaced workers. The push is part of the Western Governors’ Workforce Development Initiative.

Daugaard announced the initiative in August as the main program he’ll promote as 2018 chair of the Western Governors’ Association. The bipartisan group, representing 19 Western states and three territories, focuses on developing policy, sharing information and taking collective action on issues of importance to the region. The WGA is expected to visit Oklahoma City and Seattle as well as conduct research and gather information before issuing a final report next summer on its findings around workforce development.

“Western states tend to have lower unemployment rates,” Daugaard said. “Colorado has one the lowest unemployment rates in the nation. South Dakota is always down there as well, and as a consequence our workforce is probably the obstacle that we face to economic development.”

The Republican governor said the initiative is designed to have all the Western governors share their approach to addressing the worker shortage problem, with the hopes they can learn from one another.

“We recognize with this low unemployment, we have got to do a better job of getting every kid into the workforce and making sure they have, not just a job but a good job — a job that leads to a better job,” Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said.

The Colorado Democrat chaired the WGA in 2014.

Colorado has the Colorado Workforce Development Council to facilitate business‐led workforce development among various industries. The state also partners with CareerWise to connect students with apprenticeships.

In 2017, 250 students are working with 80 different companies through CareerWise. The goal is to have 20,000 apprenticeships available in 10 years.

There’s a growing emphasis on providing more paths for students after they graduate from high school such as learning a two-year trade, the traditional four-year career or starting with a certificate program or an apprenticeship that allows for skills-based learning.

“We want to redefine success not only to students but also to their parents and others looking to change careers and start fresh,” Daugaard said.

Hickenlooper said training programs and workforce development are especially important with the looming threat automation brings. One study released earlier this year estimated that nearly 40 percent of jobs in the U.S. may be vulnerable to replacement by robots in the next 15 years.

“We need to have ways to have all those people who are going to lose their jobs ramp up to the next set of skills. Part of that is going to be a website like skillfull.com. Part of that is going to be opening up apprenticeships so they’re not just for kids in high school,” Hickenlooper said. “I’m not saying that this is easy. I’m not saying this is the final solution. I just don’t know anything else that’s got a prayer of dealing with this tidal wave of automation we’re going to see over the next 10 or 15 years.”

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Business & data reporter Adrian D. Garcia can be reached via email at agarcia@denverite.com or twitter.com/adriandgarcia.

Adrian D. Garcia

Author: Adrian D. Garcia

Adrian D. Garcia is on business and trends for Denverite, serves as treasurer for the Colorado chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and on the board of the Denver Press Club. He can be reached at agarcia@denverite.com.