The South Dakota Board of Education is looking at the placement report for 2013 vo-tech graduates. A quick glance at the charts suggests that Southeast Tech grads are having a harder time finding work in their field and in South Dakota than grads from Lake Area, Mitchell Tech, and Western Dakota:

from South Dakota Technical Institute Placement Report for 2013 Graduates, March 2014 (click to embiggen!)

from South Dakota Technical Institute Placement Report for 2013 Graduates, March 2014 (click to embiggen!)

Southeast Tech appears to have a smaller percentage of its graduates working or pursuing further education in their fields and staying in South Dakota than any of its counterpart institutions.

But hold the phone: check out the response rates for the survey:

South Dakota Technical Institute Placement Report for 2013 Graduates, Survey Response Rates

South Dakota Technical Institute Placement Report for 2013 Graduates, Survey Response Rates

The placement rates appear to be percentages of graduate totals, not of graduates actually responding to the survey. Either Southeast Tech doesn't work as hard to get every graduate to respond to the placement survey, or Southeast Tech grads are too busy working and living the high life in the Minne-Lincoln metroplex to fuss with checking boxes.

Calculate the percentages based on survey respondents alone, and Southeast leads the vo-techs in graduates getting jobs, getting jobs in their field, and getting jobs in their field in South Dakota. Southeast remains last only in graduates employed in South Dakota. Overall, 82% of 2013 vo-tech graduates went to work, 73% went to work in their field, 70% went to work in South Dakota, and 62% got jobs in their field in South Dakota.

By the way, students, as you contemplate your technical careers, here's the return on investment the graduates ahead of you report getting in their first jobs out:

South Dakota Technical Institute Placement Report for 2013 Graduates, average reported hourly wage by career cluster

South Dakota Technical Institute Placement Report for 2013 Graduates, average reported hourly wage by career cluster

The average hourly wage reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics for all occupations in South Dakota in May 2012 was $17.32. For first-year wages, the vo-tech class of 2013 seems to be doing pretty good on the whole, except for those poor souls working in hospitality and human services. Leave a tip after dinner....


The Building South Dakota Fund, the new economic development fund created in closed negotiations and a rush of last-minute Legislative action, had safeguards to ensure that, in tight budget times, education, health care, and pay for state workers would take priority over economic development handouts.

Last week, the Governor got that changed. Governor Dennis Daugaard asked for and got Senate Bill 158, which strikes from SDCL 1-16G-47, the statute enacting the Building South Dakota Fund, this key restriction:

Notwithstanding the provisions of this section, no deposit or transfer to the building South Dakota fund may be made by the commissioner of the Bureau of Finance and Management if the projected ongoing revenues adopted by the Legislature for the prospective fiscal year are insufficient to accommodate:

  1. The statutory increases for state aid to K-12 general education, special education, and the technical institutes;
  2. Projected Title XIX and the Title XXI spending adjusted for increased provider payments, increased utilization, or enrollment growth, and as affected by any reduction in the Federal medical assistance percentage; and
  3. The state employee salary policy increase, commensurate with the K-12 inflationary increase, in addition to funds necessary to meet actuarially projected increases in health insurance costs [excerpt from SDCL 1-16G-47, enacted 2013; clause to be stricken effective July 1, 2014].

That restriction was important to passing the bill last year. House Minority Leader Bernie Hunhoff, who was instrumental in levering the BSDF into something some Democrats (though not all!) could tolerate, disagrees with decoupling BSDF from behind the Ed/Med/Worker car of the budget train:

“Well last year we passed Building South Dakota. It was a good bipartisan effort to expand economic development, recognizing that education is critical, that affordable housing is really a big part of it and that we need more grassroots economic development. And now, just a year later, we’re stripping out or defunding a lot of those really good parts of it by a really complicated mechanism that’ll allow the administration to play budget games. They’re leaving it intact, but they’re just leaving lots of opportunities to spend down reserves,” Hunhoff says [Cassie Bartlett, "Changes to Building South Dakota's Funding Raise Concerns," SDPB Radio, 2014.03.13].

Senate Bill 158 further bolsters the over-prioritization of economic development in South Dakota government. Even if we can't fulfill our obligations to our children, the sick and injured, and the folks who work for the state, Senate Bill 158 ensures that the Governor will still have plenty of money to hand out to well-to-do corporations.


But Feds Smallest Component of SD Government Jobs 

Mr. Epp notes that South Dakota depends on federal funding more than any neighboring state. From 2008 to 2011, the percentage of South Dakota's budget covered by federal funds during increased from 36.2% in 2008 to 44.9% in 2011. Governor Dennis Daugaard's proposed FY2015 budget brings that percentage back down to 39.7%. Yay, self-reliance!

Mr. Epp also notes that from 2007 to 2012, saw one of the largest increases in state and local government employment. Here are full-time equivalent government positions for 2007 and 2012, state and local, from the Census Bureau, compared with federal jobs for those years as counted by the South Dakota Department of Labor:

2007 2012 change
state FTEs 13,897 14,971 7.7%
local FTEs 29,524 30,677 3.9%
federal jobs 11,079 11,449 3.3%

Even including the Daugaardian austerity of FY2012, state government employment grew at twice the rate of local government employment. The Rounds-Daugaard administrations grew state government employment even faster than the number of feds stationed in South Dakota. Yay, smaller government!

At the end of FY2012, there were about 426,000 jobs in South Dakota. Comparing jobs and FTEs is a little apple-and-orangey, but the 57,097 government jobs and FTEs listed above constitute 13.4% of that workforce. So a little more than one in eight of your South Dakota neighbors put food on the table by teaching, policing, managing your sewer, issuing your license plates, studying the weather, or carrying out other government functions.


Following the reëlection of President Barack Hussein Obama, various captains of industry vented their grief by asserting that they would not be able to do as much business as they would have if that man of their own stripe, Mitt Romney, had won 334,000 more votes. For instance, Bruce King, CEO of Trail King in Mitchell sour-grapesily moaned that he would have hired 150 more people if Romney had won.

More than two years later, Yakley finally throws out his sour grapes and admits that he's hiring every good worker he can find. The problem is that that darned Obama economy is expanding faster than he can recruit:

Trail King President Bruce Yakley has seen his company consistently struggle to fill skilled positions, such as welders, needed to keep up with demand for its products. Yakley, who started at Trail King in March 2011, said he knew within two months that workforce was going to be an issue.

"The experience has been frustrating, to say the least," Yakley said in an interview this week with The Daily Republic.

The trailer manufacturer, with locations in Mitchell and West Fargo, N.D., cut nearly two-thirds of its workforce during the recession. When the company looked to expand in a burgeoning economy in 2012, the workers weren't available.

"We lost a lot of business because we couldn't ramp up fast enough," Yakley said.

The company's Mitchell plant currently employs approximately 550 people, up at least 30 employees from last year, according to Yakley.

Trail King is still looking to expand, but to meet its goals the company will have to hire as many as 200 skilled laborers in the next five years, Yakley said.

"We are definitely still in need of workers" [Chris Mueller, "Help Wanted in Mitchell," Mitchell Daily Republic, 2014.02.21].

The relative dearth of young workers compared to baby-boomer retirements and the challenge of convincing people to move to Mitchell are putting Trail King in a hiring bind, not the victory of President Obama. Contrary to the theme of Romney's Republican-capitalist campaign, Yakley continues to call for more government help for his fortunes:

A long-term solution to the state's workforce shortage won't come from just one source -- it will require cooperation from local communities and state government, Yakley said.

"We need to work as a region on this problem," he said [Mueller, 2014.02.21].

Yes, Yakley and the rest of us all hate government until we want something from it.

By the way, Obamanomics have unemployment declining, the stock market surging, growth projections rising, and things look a lot better for Yakley and friends now than they did at the end of the Bush Administration:

Obama Economy 2014

Pesky facts, indeed.


Jana and I are quite happy to see the Affordable Care Act working just the way we expected to end job lock. We are dismayed to see the media working as we have come to expect, getting the story wrong in the urge to spin the ACA as killing jobs.

The Congressional Budget Office released its 2014–2024 Budget and Economic Outlook Tuesday. The CBO's analysis includes an estimate that the Affordable Care Act will reduce the number of hours people work by 2.0 million full-time equivalent positions by 2017 and 2.5 million FTE by 2024.

My conservative friends are quick to conclude that Obamacare is putting people out of work. My conservative friends are wrong. The Affordable Care Act is making possible what almost every one of you working stiffs will be wishing today around 3:30 p.m. (or tomorrow when you get up for the early shift at 3:30 a.m.): that you didn't have to spend so much time working.

The Affordable Care Act is not taking jobs away from people. It is reducing Americans' need to do crappy jobs:

CBO estimates that the ACA will reduce the total number of hours worked, on net, by about 1.5 percent to 2.0 percent during the period from 2017 to 2024, almost entirely because workers will choose to supply less labor—given the new taxes and other incentives they will face and the financial benefits some will receive. Because the largest declines in labor supply will probably occur among lower-wage workers, the reduction in aggregate compensation (wages, salaries, and fringe benefits) and the impact on the overall economy will be proportionally smaller than the reduction in hours worked [Congressional Budget Office, "The Budget and Economic Outlook: 2014 to 2024," February 2014, p. 117].

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, millions of Americans won't have to take that second part-time job to cover their health insurance premiums. Americans hoping to start their own businesses will feel a little freer to let go of a job they do for someone else just to hang onto a health insurance policy. Folks approaching retirement won't be quite as stuck doing unsatisfying jobs just for the sake of keeping health coverage until they qualify for Medicare.

Yes, yes, work is noble. Work builds character. Work gives us purpose. But work also wears us down. Work makes us miss our kids' dance recitals and track meets. Work subjects us to the will of other people and corporate policy manuals. Work makes us say and do things that we would not do if we did have to take orders from the boss.

By allowing millions of people to choose to work less without risking their families' physical and fiscal health, the Affordable Care Act expands liberty. By reducing the labor supply without equal reductions in labor demand, the Affordable Care Act creates more opportunities for folks who do want to work extra hours.

Think about when you feel the greatest liberty. It's probably not when you're in the office, hurrying to finish the report the boss wants by the end of the day. It's probably Friday night when you don't have to set the alarm, or maybe Saturday when you wake up to enjoy a leisurely breakfast with your kids, or that one day a week when neither job calls you in and you can walk around town in your jeans, knowing you've paid your bills for the month and can afford to buy a book or a new toolbox. Or maybe it's that one blessed day when you can finally show your pain-in-the-neck boss your backside and leave for a job you really want.

The Affordable Care Act makes more days like that possible. The ACA doesn't kill jobs. It doesn't promote laziness. It promotes liberty—daily, practical liberty.


A new survey finds school superintendents across South Dakota telling ostrichian Republican legislators, "No, really: South Dakota is short on teachers!"

The survey, prepared by USD professor Mark Baron in collaboration with the Associated School Boards and the School Administrators of South Dakota, finds South Dakota schools struggling to fill openings with qualified teachers. The survey focuses on superintendent perceptions of the South Dakota teacher pool over the last three years, since the beginning of Governor Daugaard's fiscal and philosophical war on education.

The key data, based on responses from 119 school districts with administrators averaging over ten years of experience in South Dakota schools:

  1. 78% of superintendents say there aren't enough applicants in the teacher labor pool.
  2. The elementary teaching pool is apparently still in decent shape: only 27% of superintendents see a shortage in that area.
  3. 65% see a shortage of middle school teaching applicants.
  4. 86% see a shortage of high school teachers.
  5. We appear to still have plenty of PE/Health and Social Studies teachers, but we're short in every other field:
Subject Percent of supts. saying applicant pool adequate Percent of supts saying applicant pool inadequate
Health/PE 30.4 17.4
Social Studies 27.4 34.5
Arts 4.6 66.2
English 10.3 80.4
Special Ed 4.2 81.9
Math 1.0 82.1
Career/Tech 1.2 84.0
World Lang. 1.6 84.1
Science 2.2 86.8
  1. 17% of South Dakota schools failed to fill at least one open teaching position.
  2. 70% of superintendents say they had to fill openings with applicants who were less qualified than desired.
  3. 92% say it has become harder to recruit qualified applicants over the last three years.
  4. The superintendents say the solution to the teacher shortage isn't magic; it's just money. In response to an open-ended question about how South Dakota could increase the size and quality of the teacher applicant pool, the four most frequently offered suggestions were to increase pay and benefits, enhance state funding, make salary competitive with neighboring states, and assist teachers with educational costs. (Of those four issues, Governor Daugaard has only gestured toward offering insufficient tuition assistance to teachers in training.)
  5. 70% of superintendents say that non-retiring teachers have left their schools at least in part because of low pay.

Governor Dennis Daugaard has given top priority to making South Dakota a great place to business. He has done little to make South Dakota a great place to teach. Our K-12 school superintendents can attest to the impact of the policy failure on their dwindling teacher applicant pool.


I'm reading the report on "Placement Outcomes of Regental Graduates" discussed by the South Dakota Board of Regents at their meeting a couple weeks ago. The report does not address all of the questions blogger Jim Sheehan and I raised about the Regents' contention that the Regental institutions are well-positioned to meet an impending workforce shortage. But it does provide some interesting insights into Regental degree production and job placement... and suggest a direction for meeting South Dakota's educational and workforce needs.

Regental Graduate in-state placement FY2011

The Regents cite the above data on in-state graduate placement by industrial sector and tout the alignment of big numbers of health care and education graduates and high-demand job areas as a sign of the "university system’s responsiveness to the workforce needs of the state." The Regents cite the state Department of Labor's projections for "high demand occupations," which confirms that health care, social assistance, and education graduates (the two sectors that took the majority of in-state Regental graduate placements in FY2011) will indeed be in increasing demand in South Dakota through this decade.

The DoL lists other high-demand areas like retail, food service, and clerks of all sorts where the Regental placement rates appear to fall behind the DoL's projected demands. And unless there's a big mission change or a Regental takeover of the vo-tech schools, our university graduates won't be filling the growing workforce needs for carpenters, mechanics, drivers, and other skilled labor.

Now the Regents don't claim to be the only solution to workforce needs, and they're not. We need to promote both university and vocational education, as well as do more to recruit and retain qualified teachers and other workers.

At the bottom of the Regents' report, we find one more chart, a breakdown of South Dakota-native graduate placement by race:

Regental Graduate placement by race FY2011

Consider the American Indian column of that chart. American Indians make up 8.9% of South Dakota's population; whites, 86.2%. With population growth of 15%, almost twice the growth rate for the entire state over the last decade, Indians have a higher relative youth population. Yet by the numbers above, Indians only comprised 2.2% of the total number of Regental graduates from South Dakota, while white South Dakota natives comprised 92.8%.

The Regents express concern about the decline of young people as a percentage of South Dakota's population. Fewer young people now mean fewer workers. But the relative strength of population growth on the reservations, coupled with endemic reservarion unemployment, suggest that one of the greatest pools of potential South Dakota workers lies right here, in Pine Ridge, Mission, Eagle Butte, and other Indian communities.

Now the Indian graduate numbers are small, so it's hard to derive reliable statistical conclusions, but the FY2011 data show that the Indian graduate placement rate isn't far off from the white graduate placement rate (72% versus 76%). So it appears that if Indians can get to college, they can get the degrees that Regents say the workforce demands.

The logical conclusion here is that any major South Dakota education and workforce initiative should prioritize getting Indians into school and connecting them with the supposedly hard-to-fill jobs in our state. An Indian education/workforce initiative would be no overnight solution: we don't just send a bus to Wanblee, pick up some guys, and drive them to Mitchell to start welding. We need to do more to get our Indian neighbors into quality training and higher education. We need to turn our recruiting focus from out-state back to our own talented people. And we may even need to encourage businesses to locate closer to the reservations to make it easier for them to tap the Indian labor pool.

We could consider a variety of solutions, like 50% or more tuition reduction for all South Dakota tribal members, or moving the Capital University Center to Indian country (Fort Thompson? Martin? Timber Lake?). Unfortunately, the Daugaard Administration is moving in the opposite direction, letting budget skinflintery scuttle College Access scholarships of particular benefit for aspiring Indian youth.

Educating and employing every young tribal member in South Dakota wouldn't fill every new job in the state. But helping every South Dakotan on the reservation get an education and a job should be stapled to the top of any proposal from the Regents to meet South Dakota's workforce needs.


Calculated Risk offers two instructive charts on private-sector and public-sector job growth under the last five presidents. First, the private sector:
Private sector job growth Reagan to Obama Nov 2013
So far, the economy has created more private-sector jobs under President Barack Obama (dark blue line) than it did under either President George H. W. Bush (purple line) or President George W. Bush (red line). The Obama economy has managed this feat despite starting with a much sharper recession than either Bush faced.

Now the public sector:
Public sector job growth Reagan to Obama Nov 2013
Smooth out the Census spike, and the Obama economy has followed a downward trend in public-sector employment that is found in no other recent presidency besides the first part of the Reagan years, which coincided with a recession. The Bushes, faced with recession, managed to maintain growth in government employment.

Once again, economic data prove that those of you complaining about big government are viewing the charts upside down. Under President Barack Obama, government has gotten smaller.


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