Factory and trades jobs outpace trained workers in Sioux Falls

Grant Koerner works as an electrician at Muth Electric's solar power project at POET's headquarters in northern Sioux Falls. He secured a full-ride scholarship from tech school a few years ago. July 1, 2021.

It seems like there’s a building being renovated or going up weekly in Sioux Falls, but the growing pains are starting to sting for those charged with building the city.

Paul Muth has been helping run his family’s business for years running electricity for all of Sioux Falls and throughout the region. And with all the new construction, Muth Electric has never been busier. Yet Muth is saying no to projects, because they can’t get enough electricians on staff.

It’s not just him.

“The construction industry’s inability is the highest I’ve seen: mechanical, general contractors, block layers, welders. I mean we’re all talking about how we can’t get enough people hired,” Muth, the president/CEO of the company, said.

And construction and its related jobs are losing workers.

There were 100 fewer jobs in May than in April in the construction field in South Dakota, accounting for a 0.4% dip in employment. Meanwhile manufacturing grew 0.5%, which is about 1,200 jobs, according to state labor department data. 

Nationwide, 17 of 18 manufacturing industries reported growth in June, according to the Institute for Supply Management, and that means everything from coal to computers are being made. Yet in manufacturing, there’s a similar story.

“Workforce is certainly an issue for every manufacturing client we’re working with this year,” said Morgan Larson, a business advisor for South Dakota Manufacturing and Technology Solutions, which helps create training programs and hiring practices for factories.

SDMTS is a program tackling the issue with workforce development and incentives.  

The organization crafts incentive programs to help employers get and keep staff on. Hiring and referral bonuses, tuition reimbursement plus plenty of safety training and overtime are all being used more often as incentives for employees in the industry.

Still, there likely won’t be enough construction or factory workers for a while, due to several factors, namely not training enough in time and others quitting altogether.

The Southeast Technical College campus is located at 2320 North Career Avenue in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

“The housing (industry) has been quite disappointing because there are no people remaining who want to build a house,” said Chief Economist Michael Englund at Action Economics.

“In South Dakota you see the extreme example of mismatch of geography. There’s former waitresses in the Bronx who would take jobs and can’t because there’s no jobs up there. But people aren’t prone to pack up and move (from) places like New York to places like South Dakota,” Englund said.

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