Noem announces investment in apprenticeship programs

April 26, 2023

SIOUX FALLS — Employers willing to build or expand apprenticeship programs in South Dakota will soon have a shot at a larger pool of state funding.

John Hult with South Dakota Searchlight ( reports during a stop Tuesday at Howe Inc., Gov. Kristi Noem announced the addition of $7.9 million in apprenticeship grants to be distributed over three years through the Start Today South Dakota program. Howe is among the businesses that have already used program funding to launch state-accredited apprenticeship programs.

New employers in the program could get up to $15,000 to cover start-up costs; existing partners are eligible for up to $10,000.

The move is the latest of several administrative and legislative efforts to address the workforce troubles that accompany South Dakota’s historically low unemployment rate. The money will come from existing workforce development funds, Noem said.

There are 25,000 open jobs in the state, and Noem said South Dakota is expected to see another 3,000 job openings a year through 2030.

“The state that has the workers will be the state that will be successful, that will be more stable during recessions,” Noem said. “We’ll have a more successful economy.”

Employers like Howe that choose to offer apprenticeship programs shoulder the costs of training, program setup and apprentice management. Noem said the money, available through the state Department of Labor, is meant to help offset those costs.

In order to be a registered apprenticeship, the participating employer must pay at least minimum wage and provide instruction beyond typical on-the-job training. Apprentices work with one or more experienced employees as they move toward licensure in their chosen field.

The department will work with employers on program eligibility and setup, according to Labor Secretary Marcia Hultman, who said her team had been “bursting at the seams” to talk about it in the runup to Tuesday’s announcement.

“They’re literally ready to talk to employers today if they have questions,” Hultman said.

The department will hold a statewide webinar on the funding program from 2-3 p.m. Central on May 10, she said. More information is online.

Dan Erikson of Howe began as an apprentice 10 years ago in fire protection. He’s since moved up to become the company’s fire protection service manager, and helped set up the Department of Labor-accredited apprenticeship program.

Working with apprentices is now one of Erikson’s most gratifying tasks at the Sioux Falls-based company.

“They’re the future,” said Erikson, whose company joined the apprenticeship program in 2022. “They’re the ones who are going to take over for us.”

Ashley Kingdon-Reese of Independent Health Solutions used startup funding for several years in a row to create a path to licensure for home health aides, behavioral health aides and community health workers. Apprenticeship programs help get employees into homes and jobs more quickly, she said, while giving those employees hands-on experience.

“There really are no downsides,” Kingdon-Reese said.

Tuesday’s funding announcement comes one day after Noem inked an executive order encouraging state hiring managers to consider life experiences alongside college degrees when reviewing applicants for state jobs, and a few weeks after a Noem-backed bill to recognize some out-of-state professional licenses for new residents was signed into law.