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As the CEO of B9Creations, a global additive manufacturing company, and a parent of a 15-year-old, I can tell you that in both roles, I share a common goal: help young people discover their God-given gifts and talents and equip them with a plan to put those to use.

Without early career exposure, students can struggle to align their talents with a vocational path or go deep into debt figuring it out — while many employers lack a robust talent pipeline to propel their company forward.

That’s why Governor Kristi Noem’s South Dakota Week of Work initiative and our partnerships with schools are so critical, and why B9Creations was honored to serve as the host site for its West River kickoff and will continue as an engaged partner during its inaugural launch April 20-24.

By introducing 10th-grade students to careers through job shadows and industry tours, they can make more informed decisions about the field they are interested in and set a trajectory to explore it, and the benefits for employers to engage with and retain their future workforce are just as sizable.

A valuable resource

As an engineering student who attended South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, I left the state for career opportunity and spent the next 20 years trying to figure out a path back.

Now as an employer, five out of 30 of our employees are interns turned full-time, spanning marketing and sales to engineering and manufacturing, and another four are current interns. That’s the trend line I’m passionate about, and engaging students at a high-school level with opportunities right here in South Dakota is invaluable in reducing the export of our most valuable asset — our talented young people.

In high-growth technology businesses like B9Creations, we need talent across the value stream, from finance and human resources to sales, customer support, engineering and production. But it’s more than subject matter expertise we’re seeking. It’s critical soft skills like problem-solving, work ethic, collaboration, leadership and communication that enable students (and employees) to both excel at their first jobs and forge a career that helps them achieve their full potential.

Work-based learning builds students’ employability, helping them develop these capabilities, while the responsibility and accountability they learn in the workplace are just as valuable in the educational landscape.

Future-proof careers

The world is changing at breakneck speed, and our graduates’ competition is global. With the job market changing just as fast, many of the careers of tomorrow can’t be conceived of today — making emotional intelligence and a growth mindset every bit as critical as exposure to future-proof careers in industries that are on the cusp of critical mass.

Serving customers in nearly 70 countries worldwide, ranging from Proctor & Gamble to 3M, Tiffany’s, and B. Braun Medical Inc., B9Creations is no different. Our competition is global, fast-moving, and backed by billion-dollar capital. Just as students must remain nimble for tomorrow’s careers, we, too, must remain an innovation engine to succeed in serving our target customers and at being the one who employs our young people.

The Week of Work equips businesses and students for future success, through workforce development and a talent pipeline that keeps us locally based, globally competitive, and continues to strengthen South Dakota’s economy and communities.

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