My Vulcan friend Jim Sheehan reads the December 5 press release from the Board of Regents and finds it illogical:
...[T]he South Dakota Board of Regents... predicts a shortage of home grown college graduates to meet a projected demand from the state job market over the next two decades.... The idea that more South Dakota graduates are needed to meet upcoming labor demands is an unconnected argument at best, and far more likely to be a biased political ploy by the Board of Regents to secure a larger portion of the state budget [Jim Sheehan, "Bored of Regents," Republican Territory, 2013.12.08].
I won't ascribe any deep conspiracy to our noble Regents (I save that for the Attorney General, right, Jonathan Ellis?). But I will agree with the somewhat vague logic of the press release. Regents exec Jack Warner trumpets the Regental system's graduate in-state placement rates, then turns to demographics:
The supply of jobs in the state is growing, with more than 41,000 new jobs expected to be created in South Dakota between 2008 and 2018. However, the next generation of South Dakota’s homegrown workforce will almost certainly be smaller than its current working population. Census Bureau projections show South Dakota’s population in the 14 to 44 age range will either remain flat or fall modestly by 2030, while the number of South Dakotans age 65 or older will climb by a staggering 61.7 percent. From 2000 to 2030, South Dakota’s median age will rise from 35.6 to 41.5 [South Dakota Board of Regents, press release, 2013.12.05].
Warner's statement says we will have no increase of prime working-age folks to keep up with the increasing needs of an increasing sector of older folks. But nothing in the release establishes that...
- the productivity of that prime working-age group will not keep up with demands for goods and services;
- more of those folks in the 65-and-older category won't remain in the workforce to meet market needs;
- meeting the demands of that older population will require "more South Dakotans with postsecondary degrees."
Perhaps the actual Regents' study connects those dots, but the Regents fail to include a link to the study, leaving us to imagine the dot connections ourselves as we mull over this rather vague policy directive. [Update 14:30 CST: An eager and well-placed reader provides a link to the study in last week's Regents packet! More analysis will follow!]
Doing my heart good, Sheehan points us back toward free market fundamentals:
No real deterrent exists for a company in finding a skilled workforce if the need arises. Migration to our state will occur if jobs with reasonable compensation, through salary and benefits, are offered. We have a competitive edge over many other states through our reasonable state tax system that attract both businesses wishing to setup on South Dakota soil and also potential out-of-state job seekers considering relocating to our state [Sheehan, 2013.12.08].
Sheehan's exhortation to faith in the free market rings with extra sharpness alongside the announcement that Governor Daugaard's workforce recruitment program has flopped. Recruiting workers doesn't require innovative experimental policies. It requires paying them well and not treating them like dogs (and more of the former will often make up for latter).
Unlike Sheehan, I'm willing to support more funding for education in the Regental system. A dollar invested in education should always produce more benefits for society than a dollar invested in crap-shoot marketing or "workforce recruitment". But increasing the Regents' budget and the number of students graduating from South Dakota's universities won't make a dent in our workforce needs if South Dakota employers don't offer those graduates good wages.19 comments