As the Sioux Falls area grows, adding new businesses and new families, the Sioux Falls public school system is an active partner in that growth, serving as a major quality of life component and helping to enhance the talent pool that drives the regional economy.
According to Dr. Brian Maher, Superintendent of the Sioux Falls School District, K-12 education in the community is linked to business in a variety of ways. Maher is an ex-officio member of the Chamber of Commerce board and there are several business advocacy groups in the high schools. In addition, the Career and Technical Education Academy (CTE) and the school district’s affiliation with Southeast Technical Institute aid students in finding direct paths to careers. That connection to the economic growth of the region doesn’t start with high school career counseling, however.
“Our ties to the business community keep us nimble on their needs,” Maher said. “With schools in every neighborhood, we’re linked to the growth of the community throughout the grades. Programs at CTE, New Tech High School and STI are outgrowths of the articulation of those community needs.”
Maher said that the population growth and diversity of Sioux Falls makes corresponding growth and diversity necessary in the school system.
“Our job is to prepare kids for life beyond the 12th grade,” he said. “We don’t dictate what that life should be—because we don’t know. We have to prepare our students to go on to become neurosurgeons or to graduate on Sunday and enter the workforce on Monday. Either way, we must equip them with the life skills to do those things—critical thinking, adaptability plus specific skills.”
The difficulty is that those specific skills keep changing—requiring the schools to change with the shifts in industry and society.
“We can’t keep up with specifics, so we need to give kids the ability to think through changes,” Maher said. “I remember when I learned to email and social media didn’t exist. Now email is standard and we use social media as teaching platforms.”
Maher said that the challenges of a growing community are part of maintaining a quality school system.
“When you have a vibrant economy like ours, there is a constant positive pressure to move forward educationally,” Maher said. “Folks expect that from the educational system. You see all the positive benefits of economic growth and all the challenges.”
Workforce development is one challenge facing the school district in several ways. The Sioux Falls School District is a key player in the partnership to grow the talent pool and, as the fourth largest employer in the community, is also competing for workers, with job opportunities from classroom teachers and aides to custodians, cooks and bus drivers.
“We’re constantly in recruiting mode,” Maher said. “We’re growing as Sioux Falls grows, and we see, in a wide variety of ways, that the community understands and supports that growth.”
There is better training for our workforce in Sioux Falls. A multitude of options are available to meet businesses' needs at the postsecondary level including city programs, state grants, technical training, and a new $50 million scholarship program for technical school students.Read More