BROOKINGS – A digital workforce revolution has swept the world due to COVID-19, and South Dakota State University Extension’s South Dakota Remote Works program has been providing a series of key tools for remote workers statewide.
“The evolution of work to increasingly remote or hybrid formats is a change that was happening before COVID-19, but has significantly accelerated,” said Joshua Hofer, community vitality field specialist for SDSU Extension. “Progressive, future-visioning communities need to be prepared with the skillsets, infrastructure and assets to attract and retain the modern remote worker.”
Remote work brings unique benefits to the workforce. According to Hofer, SmallBizGenius noted in a 2021 survey that:
• About 76% of workers would be more willing to stay with their current employer if they could work flexible hours.
• Companies allowing remote work have 25% lower employee turnover than those that don’t.
• People who work remotely at least once a month are 24% more likely to be happy and productive.
This shift comes at a unique time in South Dakota employment history. In June, the Argus Leader reported a record 24,000 jobs were available throughout South Dakota on the SDWORKS website, and the South Dakota unemployment rate is 2.8%, one of the lowest in the nation.
So, is remote work a boon or a threat to South Dakota businesses? It could represent both, notes Hofer.
“Businesses will need to be thoughtful and process-oriented as remote work opens up employment competition that we have not seen before,” Hofer said.
At the same time, he says citizens employed in other states can now work remotely, valuing the security, space and wide-open nature of South Dakota.
“Moving forward, the challenge is for communities to leverage their assets and build places that are attractive to live, play and work in,” Hofer said.
South Dakota Remote Works specifically aims at the skillset challenges in this workforce transition. Established in January 2021, the program is a collaboration with Utah State University’s Rural Online Initiative that provides “specialized remote work training to individuals for success in a rapidly changing economy.”
Feedback over the first six months has been strong, said Hofer, with several individuals finding remote employment as soon as 30 days after, and the program is gaining a growing base of participants.
The course is now offered quarterly in September and November 2021 and February, May, September and November 2022. It takes around a month to complete (20-30 hours total), and the cost is $125, with scholarships available through support from the Bush Foundation.
To learn more, visit the South Dakota Remote Works page. To register for the September course, visit the SDSU Extension Events page. Registration closes Aug. 24 at noon.