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State Board of Regents focuses on workforce development plan

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Brian Maher

Brian Maher, executive director of the South Dakota Board of Regents

Policy and analysis on health sciences workforce development is one of the focuses for the South Dakota Board of Regents.

Executive Director Brian Maher told the Journal on Tuesday that the board is in its infancy with partnerships, collaborations and thoughts on ways to address workforce needs.

Maher is one of three appointed members to the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE), which met last week in person for the first time since the pandemic began in Rapid City. WICHE is a collaboration among the Western States and Pacific territories that discusses ways to strengthen higher education, workforce development and behavioral health throughout the region.

Maher, who has been on the commission for two years, said one of the issues identified throughout the 16 member states was workforce development, particularly nursing.

"That's an issue that we were already interested in as a state and an interest or an area where we see value in talking to the states around us to try to figure out what are the best practices currently in that environment," he said. "I think being at the table and being part of that conversation going forward is beneficial to South Dakota."

Maher said they discussed how to make some professions appealing, and how to make sure middle and high schoolers see that profession as appealing. He said they also discussed how to retain people who do choose that industry.

Maher said the question then becomes what role does higher education play in that situation, along with employers and high school counselors.

"We think we have a societal role because we know we need the workforce," he said. "I think trying to figure out our role in concert with employers, with government, etc., etc., is really a crucial conversation that we need to have, West River or otherwise."

The board's next meeting is June 22-23 at the University of South Dakota, according to its website.

South Dakota's other WICHE representatives include South Dakota Rep. Larry Tidemann, R-Brookings, and Diana VanderWoude, vice president of learning, education and development at Sanford Health.

— Contact Siandhara Bonnet at siandhara.bonnet@rapidcityjournal.com

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