Listening is what this campaign is all about.

When we launched our Hometown Initiative, we wanted to start a conversation about our vision for economic growth in South Dakota. At economic roundtables in every corner of the state, I’ve listened to mayors, county commissioners, business owners, community leaders, educators, students, and citizens from every walk of life about what we can do to make our hometowns thrive. These are the people who make South Dakota work.

The future of our state depends on our kids and grandkids living and working right here in South Dakota. The workforce shortage is a national issue that is not unique to our state, and we’ll have to work together to ensure our young people have the knowledge and skills to succeed in a 21st century economy. The Marty Jackley Workforce Initiative is the second component of our comprehensive vision for South Dakota’s economy. It’s the result of listening to people just like you during our campaign for South Dakotans by South Dakotans.


Transform unemployment insurance. It’s time to make unemployment insurance “reemployment insurance.”  The current name suggests individuals are receiving a benefit for being unemployed. The change to “reemployment” is more consistent with the real intent of the program and will initiate a shift in perception. Reemployment insurance needs to be a temporary fix for individuals who have lost their job through no fault of their own. This temporary benefit is tied to the expectation that individuals will return to the workforce as quickly as possible for jobs that are readily available.

In addition to changing the name and the culture, we will take the following action:

  • Build more accountability to ensure the search for active employment is a condition for receiving benefits.
  • Increase engagement in the workforce for those on call-back status during the “off season” while maintaining connection to a primary employer.
  • Offer opportunities to acquire new skills to increase individual employment options offered through Department of Labor and technical school partnerships.

Prepare our young people for 21st century work. Our state’s K-12, technical institutions, colleges, and universities play a vital role in developing the next generation of South Dakota workers. All workforce development efforts must collaborate with all education systems so we are working together toward the same goals. Keeping the cost of postsecondary education affordable will be a priority because it enables students from all levels of income to access essential job skill training. Building and maintaining excellent educational facilities to support the needs of a modern vibrant workforce is also critically important.

Invest in education that provides a lifelong return. The vast majority of workforce needs require some form of postsecondary preparation. As governor, I’ll work to grow our state’s technical institutes. For too long, technical programs have been viewed as a pathway to low-paying, low-skill jobs. In reality, our technical programs are extremely modern and harness today’s latest technologies. Some programs place students in $80,000+ jobs. The pipeline to these programs start in school districts implementing Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs in categories like transportation, distribution and logistics, agriculture, health sciences, information technology, business management, manufacturing, public safety and security. CTE Funds work best when aligned to local workforce needs and guided by local industry representatives.

Unfortunately, South Dakota tuition for two-year public institutions is not competitive with surrounding states, and in some cases it is nearly double the cost. This leaves us vulnerable as potential members of our workforce leave the state to seek affordable postsecondary opportunities or worse yet, they give up on advanced training pathways and end up under-employed in low-paying jobs that don’t adequately support a family.  I will work with our technical schools to seek innovative funding solutions to roll-back costs for our students. I’ll also coordinate the efforts of our educational community with our Department of Labor, Board of Regents, economic development entities and industry partners to ensure resources are laser-focused to prioritize the creation of the most essential school-to-workforce pipelines to meet our state’s employment needs.

Adapt to the changing needs of employers. For postsecondary education to be a success in South Dakota, the goals of our higher education institutions must be closely aligned with state workforce needs. I will invite South Dakota businesses to the table when it comes to designing curriculum and funding programs that build the school-to-work pipeline. By better informing high school and prospective postsecondary students about high-need and high-paying careers, and coordinating the efforts of our schools to prepare students for those careers, we can graduate students who are ready to work and able to maximize their standard of living.

Emphasize dual credit, stackable credits, “workforce ready” skills. As governor I’ll create innovative partnerships across education and industry. My plan emphasizes dual credit and on-the-job work experience as critical components of a successful education.  In addition to work experience, these options can provide students with stackable credentials and certifications applicable to their career paths following their K-12 education.  For example, students will be able to obtain journeyman hours as an electrician or plumber and industry relevant certifications in fields like agronomy or healthcare. We will work with local businesses to advise CTE programs so that we can develop students that are ready to excel in postsecondary institutions but are also “workforce ready.”

To further enhance our CTE programs, I’ll reach out to local communities to harness funds for students in those communities to meet specific needs via the Build Dakota mechanism.

Support and grow existing workforce programs. The $50 million Build Dakota Scholarship investment is an example of the kind of leadership and partnership that created a successful workforce development program. I’ll be a forward-looking governor who will not only grow these programs when they deliver results, but also look for opportunities to bring additional investors to the table. I am also committed to supporting existing workforce initiatives, including SD WINS, Dakota Roots, and Career Launch.

Connect our South Dakota youth to employers. As a board member for the national non-profit Jobs for America’s Graduates (JAG), I’ve worked with governors and state leaders across the nation to improve educational outcomes for our youth and connect them to meaningful employment. Leveraging these national relationships will help bring resources to the state as we work to educate and employ the next generation of South Dakota workers.

Youth Apprenticeships are another innovative mechanism I’ll employ to create stronger partnerships with business and industry. Youth Apprenticeship prepares students for the real world, provides South Dakota with a highly skilled and competitive workforce, and connects students to South Dakota employers. Youth Apprenticeship employers know they are helping young people achieve their dreams while developing a world-class workforce for South Dakota in the 21st century. As governor, I will facilitate public-private partnerships to create, expand, and deliver these apprenticeships.

Tie incentives to in-state placement. We not only want to equip our South Dakota students with a world-class education—we also want them to stay here after they’ve earned their postsecondary credential. By designing our scholarships to incentivize both high academic performance and placement in high-need South Dakota industries, we can expand our workforce in critical areas and help keep education affordable.

Build hometown jobs with investment. The REDI Fund was designed to help South Dakota businesses expand and create new and better jobs. It is important that we help our employers retain their employees through equipment upgrades which will lead to an expansion of technical careers. Technology is changing every day, and to remain competitive, employers must adapt. In order to strengthen our South Dakota employers, I will direct the REDI Board to find more efficient ways to lend money and grow our local businesses.  As the economy evolves, so must the REDI Fund.

The REDI Fund must also look for new and creative solutions to help our businesses with their financial needs. These solutions must not compete with our lending institutions. Rather, as lending institutions face tougher regulatory challenges, we must position the REDI Fund as a partner to South Dakota businesses to ensure they have the financial tools to create new and better jobs.


Our South Dakota families work hard. Together we can make sure they have the access to the education, training, and capital they need to make that hard work pay off.

Guided by our Workforce Initiative and our Hometown Initiative, we can strengthen our economy, keep our children in the state, and build a brighter future for our communities big and small. It won’t be easy, but in South Dakota we don’t shy away from problems because they are hard.

Let’s get to work.