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Sioux Falls Leaders Bring Students to Workforce Event, Aiming to Stem ‘Brain Drain’

Approximately 70% of in-state students graduating from a South Dakota public university remain in the state after graduation – the other 30% leave

Denise Guzzetta, vice president of talent and workforce development with the Sioux Falls Development Foundation, talks with students at the WIN Summit. (Joshua Haiar/SD Searchlight)

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High-schoolers received special focus at a day-long workforce summit Wednesday at the Sioux Falls Convention Center.

The Sioux Falls Development Foundation hosted the WIN Summit. The event featured guest speakers and community business leaders sharing insights, and opportunities for young people to build relationships with those leaders.

Approximately 70% of in-state students graduating from a South Dakota public university remain in the state after graduation. The other 30% leave. This means the state is investing tax dollars to educate some workers who don’t stay – an issue commonly referred to as “brain drain.”

Denise Guzzetta, vice president of talent and workforce development with the Sioux Falls Development Foundation, said students meeting with city leaders improves their likelihood of calling Sioux Falls home in the future.

“So it’s very important for them to socialize and get connected to business and community leaders,” Guzzetta said. “Everybody has a role to play in the workforce. It’s not just the employers. It’s the community.”

Guzzetta said the city has talented kids in the school system.

“We work hand-in-hand with students so they understand what’s possible here versus somewhere else,” she said. “This is a generation that’s going to be entering the workforce in very large numbers. Baby Boomers are retiring and exiting the workforce. And so we need these young people here.”

Students and guests hear from speakers at the Sioux Falls Development Foundation’s WIN Summit. (Joshua Haiar/SD Searchlight)

And the message is getting through to some.

Lincoln High School student Jesuit Munoz moved to Sioux Falls from Puerto Rico. He said events like the WIN Summit have shown him South Dakota is the right place to put down roots.

“I see many opportunities here,” he said. “In Puerto Rico, there are not as many. So, I’m here. I’m good in Sioux Falls. I like this.”

That’s what Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken wants to hear. He said the city still has an extremely low unemployment rate of 2 percent despite a record number of people moving to the city last year.

“If you ask me how this works, how 7,000 people move here yet we have record low unemployment, I don’t know. I don’t get it,” TenHaken said. “I do know that COVID has created a whole different set of options for people who had to go into the office. Now, they can be anywhere.”

South Dakota Searchlight is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. South Dakota Searchlight maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Seth Tupper for questions: info@southdakotasearchlight.com. Follow South Dakota Searchlight on Facebook and Twitter.

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