Gov. Kristi Noem believes the next Henry Ford is sitting in a South Dakota classroom and just needs the right experience to harness innovative potential. 

That's where South Dakota Week of Work comes in. 

A week in April will be set aside for 10th-grade students in the state to get hands-on experience through job shadowing, industry tours and classroom presentations. 

From becoming a chef to working in a law office, sophomores will have a chance to learn real-work skills and gauge their interest in different careers.  

The program is made possible through a partnership of the state Department of Education, the state Department of Labor, the Governor's Office of Economic Development, the state Chamber of Commerce and the South Dakota Retailers Association.  

The governor announced the new initiative in September while at B9 Creations in Rapid City. 

Noem said that while talking with business owners she continues to hear about the need for more skilled workers. She believes the workers are here and just need to be made aware of the opportunities in South Dakota. 

"Work-based learning works," Noem said in a press release. "It helps our young people learn the soft skills they need like showing up on time, dressing professionally and interacting with customers." 

But organizers say it won't be successful without buy-in from businesses. In the coming months, a number of them will be recruited to offer job shadowing. 

"Consider how your business can contribute to developing the next generation of South Dakota’s leaders," Noem said. "Think about the ways you can encourage students to tap into their potential and experiment with high-demand careers right here at home.” 

Tenth-grade students will be able to sign up and express interest in a specific field and the state will help make connections with a business that could be a good fit. 

During the announcement event, Rapid City Stevens senior Sawyer Enders-Ervin spoke about how job shadowing at Rapid City Regional Hospital helped solidify her decision to study to become an orthopedic surgeon. 

Tate Erickson, who also attends Rapid City Stevens, spoke of his internship where he was able to design an outdoor kitchen and landscaping area for a customer. Erickson now wants to study horticulture planning and design. 

More information is available at sdweekofwork.com 

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