Labor Secretary Marcia Hultman told the Legislative Planning Committee yesterday that her department is working with the Department of Education and the Board of Regents to publish information online about job placements and earnings for South Dakota’s post-secondary grads:
She said it will help parents, job-seekers, legislators and the general public know more about whether post-secondary education is meeting the needs in South Dakota’s jobs markets.
“So we can try to get a correlation: Are they in a job relevant to the education they pursued?” Hultman told the panel [Bob Mercer, “Earnings, Job Placements Will Be on a New Web Site,” Mitchell Daily Republic, 2015.07.16].
I welcome any and all data the state cares to publish online for our eager blogospheric consumption. However, we should view the intent of the data dump proposed here with caution: the needs of the job market should not be the end-all-be-all criterion for the success of post-secondary education. I don’t need to know that students of the humanities are getting jobs in the humanities (what defines “jobs in the humanities,” anyway?) to be happy that our next generation is studying the humanities. Post-secondary education that provides a greater understanding of humanity and the universe can be its own reward.
Two members of the Planning Committee suggested the Department of Labor target some other, more useful data:
Rep. Shawn Bordeaux, D-Mission, said he is concerned about helping the six South Dakota counties that are among the 11 poorest in the nation.
Bordeaux said those regions lack development and opportunities and are in need of help in learning how to get access to more government money.
Sen. Mike Vehle, R-Mitchell, asked Hultman to update Native American employment data on a regular basis to the Legislature, along with the data for veterans, retired people and people with disabilities.
Vehle also asked for a deeper look at South Dakotans who live on incomes below the federal poverty level [Mercer, 2015.07.16].
Sen. Vehle is right to call for more specific data about Native American employment would be great, especially given the disputed numbers we have on unemployment on the reservations. The Department of Labor offers some demographic data, but I don’t see a specific count of unemployed American Indians.
Rep. Bordeaux is right to suggest the Department of Labor should focus more attention on our poorest American Indian communities: our post-secondary graduates are already far better off economically, regardless of whether they work in their degree field, than the Native American population that struggles just to get out of high school and on to further education.
Rep. Bordeaux says we should get beyond data and put dollars to work for the tribes, but Rep. Kristin Conzet resists:
Bordeaux suggested state government’s budget surplus could be directed toward programs that need more money rather than be automatically sent to the budget reserve.
Rep. Kristin Conzet, R-Rapid City, said she agreed with Bordeaux’s point but wants the money applied broadly.
“We really need to look at the unemployment issue all across South Dakota,” Conzet said. “Make sure that we’re including everybody who lives in our borders” [Mercer, 2015.07.16].
White privilege check, Rep. Conzet: I think “including everybody” is exactly what Rep. Bordeaux is talking about. Current employment and economic development policies aren’t including everybody. Divvying up surplus dollars equally among the haves and the have-nots only preserves the gap between the haves and the have-nots. “Including everybody” in overall policy would mean we would focus a new policy on the have-nots (in this conversation, our Lakota brothers and sisters whom Rep. Bordeaux represents in District 26A on the Rosebud Reservation) to include them in the relative prosperity that the haves already have.
Counting the jobs college and vo-tech grads get is interesting, but it’s not as pressing an issue as counting the unemployed on our reservations and hooking our American Indian neighbors up with jobs.