But wait! David Owen of the South Dakota Chamber of Commerce is telling folks that South Dakota doesn’t lack people; it just lacks skills:
It’s not that we lack people; it’s that we have a whole bunch of people that don’t have the skills we need in the marketplace. So how do we reëducate adults? How do we direct students to where their passion and interests might be when social norms suggest they might go to college? [David Owen, “Workforce Development Slow Process,” WNAX Radio, 2019.04.11].
Now when David Owen speaks of in-demand skills, I think of all sorts of specific tech skills that require specialized training: welding, diesel mechanicry, medical technology, network management, data mining. But tech skills aren’t what Owen has in mind in his conversation with WNAX. Heck, he’s not even thinking of the durable and flexible critical thinking and communication skills that I contend are good reason to maintain and strengthen our focus on the humanities. South Dakota’s skills gap is apparently far more fundamental:
…the soft skills: is ready to show up to work every day on time and maybe stay all day, with the proper attitude about being productive. These are all things that are difficult when unemployment is very low, and they are all things that almost defy simple solutions [Owen, 2019.04.11].
Show up on time, work all shift, get stuff done—those aren’t even soft skills; those are expectations I thought went without saying in any workplace. That’s not a skills gap; that’s laziness. Turning all of our universities into vocational schools teaching industry-demanded technical skills won’t solve that character gap. Maybe only a kick in the pants will.
But are good, upright South Dakotans really sacrificing their vaunted South Dakota values and slacking off en masse at work? Have we really turned into a bunch of lazy bums who can’t get done the things the Chamber of Commerce needs done? Or are there really just not enough of us to not only do the jobs but give employers options when they find themselves saddled with a goldbricker?
Or is it possible that South Dakota employers are getting full value for their dollar but still aren’t paying enough dollars to deserve full effort?
Don’t forget, David: as anyone who has bought cheap furniture from Shopko will tell you, you get what you pay for.