The template that Midwest Railcar Repair, Inc. uses to train its employees exemplifies part of U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem’s formula to combat the skilled-worker shortage in South Dakota.
“We have been wanting to come here for a little while, and they are really doing apprenticeship programs like I would like to facilitate around the state,” she said.
Rep. Noem spoke with company leadership and toured the facility Thursday, March 29, as part of her Kickstarting the Economy tour to highlight the economic agenda if she’s elected governor.
“We have many areas of skilled workforce that we need to have filled – thousands of empty jobs in the state – and my plan is to utilize these employers with some help from technical schools to get individuals trained for the skill sets that we need to fill those jobs across the state and allow the state to license them in a new unique way that gets our needs met,” Rep. Noem said.
David Smook, president of Midwest Railcar Repair, Inc., guided the tour.
“I think it’s beneficial,” he said. “It helps us as an industry make everyone aware – those in the political environment – of some of the challenges and some of the successes we have.”
Unclear regulations are a hurdle, Smook said.
“People are more willing and more able to follow those regulations if they’re clearly written and understood,” he said.
Successes at the company include on-the-job training, Rep. Noem said.
“This is one of the best-kept secrets in South Dakota, where someone can come here, work hard, get trained with a skill where they can make $25 to $30 an hour,” she said. “I think that’s something we need to perpetuate.”
In addition to conversing with administration, Rep. Noem spoke and shook hands with several other laborers.
“I always like walking around the floor and talking to the workers here,” she said. “They come here, they appreciate this company, they appreciate the opportunity to make good money and take care of their families.”
Smook has been a Midwest Railcar Repair, Inc. employee for 23 years, and he enjoys the variety of his job.
“It’s a learning experience every day and something different every day,” he said. “Over the years, looking at the individuals coming up in the business and watching them grow as employees and watching them succeed is fun.”