Washington, D.C., March 9 — Governor Dennis Daugaard of South Dakota gave a statement recently about his dedication to including his citizens with disabilities in education and employment initiatives.
South Dakota is “…setting the example and showing that we want to include people who are able to do jobs with accommodations.” During the NGA meeting in 2013, Governor Daugaard helped lead an employment initiative for people with disabilities. Later that year he went home and created the Employment Works Task Force to implement the recommendations made during the meeting. Now South Dakota has a network of businesses, business resource organizations, state-level employment professionals, and job-seekers with disabilities.
Currently South Dakota is ranked second in the country for employing people with disabilities. Over half of the 51,000 working-age people with disabilities are currently employed.
Governor Daugaard currently chairs the Western Governor’s Association, and has chosen bridging the gap between prospective workers and employers in the west as his primary initiative. For him, this includes job-seekers with disabilities. “It’s important that employers look in areas where they might not have looked before,” he emphasized. “The workers that you get [with disabilities] are often some of your most loyal and hard working.”
The governor also seeks to ensure that people with disabilities are well prepared to meet the needs of their employers. According to the Georgetown University Center on Education in the Workforce, South Dakota added 11.6 million jobs since the recession ended and only 80,000 went to those with a high school diploma or less. When Governor Daugaard spoke to the Vermillion Rotary Club in December he emphasized the take away from the report was that “jobs for those with no post-secondary training are trending down, and trending down pretty quickly.”
When Philip Kahn-Pauli of RespectAbility asked how South Dakota aims to include students with disabilities in preparing for the advancing labor market, the governor gave an encouraging response. “One way I believe our state governments and local school districts can improve their grad rates is by providing programs that are, in the eyes of the student, relevant,” he explained. South Dakota’s graduation rate for students in special education currently rests about 5 percentage points below the national average at 60 percent.
For many students with disabilities this means including things like on-the-job training and apprenticeships, such as the ones provided by Project SEARCH, during their time in South Dakota’s school system.
As South Dakota continues to prepare and employ their citizens with disabilities, their solutions deserve to be highlighted.
For more information on state initiatives: http://drivedisabilityemployment.org