Inaugural Talent Draft Day draws big response

Oct. 22, 2019

This paid piece is sponsored by the Sioux Falls Development Foundation.

Talent Draft Day, a first-time event from the Sioux Falls Development Foundation, got off to a strong start with its debut last week.

Designed to connect students pursuing high-need careers with the schools and businesses that want to work with them, it drew more than 600 talented area students from Harrisburg High School, Southeast and Lake Area technical institutes, and schools in the Lake Area Multi-District.

“I started in high school my senior year. I took a robotics class, and I was already leaning towards an engineering-type field, and it just really got me interested,” Lake Area Tech student Alex Thomas said. “So I went and toured the area and learned about the Build Dakota scholarship. So I ended up applying for the Build Dakota scholarship and interviewed with a company called Daktronics, and I will be working in the Brookings location.”

Daktronics offers a program that allows students to earn as they learn, said Dan Schumacher, high complexity supervisor.

“We have 20 hours a week where they work,” he said. “They come in, and they get to develop themselves individually, professionally, increase their professionalism and really identify what they want to be doing as they move forward.”

That’s the kind of match that Talent Draft Day is designed to make.

Spread out among three-hour blocks, students rotated through different sessions. There was speed networking, where students quickly met one-on-one with lots of potential employers. And they came prepared.

“We look a lot at being professional, how to handle yourself, how to shake somebody’s hand, look them in the eye,” said Brooks Jacobson, instructor of robotics and electronics at Lake Area Tech. “We talk about talking clearly, and most of them have resumes with them because they’re ready to do that all the time.”

Talent Draft Day was put on by the Sioux Falls Development Foundation, and businesses responded with a big endorsement.

“I think one of the most impressive things really was seeing some of the high school students that came by,” said Mackenzie Vanzee, a recruiter at Muth Electric. “I was talking to some sophomores who already knew that they wanted a career in our field, which was great to see that there is definitely some interest coming from such a young age.”

Daktronics’ Schumacher was impressed too.

“We got to meet some high school kids that were starting their planning for what they’re going to do in college and how they’re going to be moving forward in life, and they brought a ton of great questions,” he said. “It was great to see the enthusiasm for them looking for the next step. Then, we got to meet some of the college kids that are close to graduation — they’re within six to eight months — so they’re looking for the next step and employers that are excited to have them come in.”

Students got a chance to show their skills too, including a robotics demonstration from Lake Area Tech.

“We’re actually building 3D printers right now as part of a project to get more familiar with them and also learn about technical writing because we have to build an instruction book for them,” Thomas said.

The school is finding good traction collaborating with area businesses as it prepares students for careers.

“We’ve partnered with 3M, Daktronics, Smithfield in Sioux Falls; Raven is becoming a partner,” Jacobson said. “We’re getting more and more into this area.”

And while established businesses found value in connecting in a new way, new businesses did too. Business owner Fas Mosleh recently relocated from Silicon Valley and came to Talent Draft Day trying to recruit for several roles.

“The business students I met were really interesting,” he said. “They had some experience in e-commerce already and not just theoretical academic experience but actually trying to run a business and start a business. I can easily see the potential was there to adapt to another scale and go outside of this area and bring in more business from other parts of the country and even abroad potentially. The mind-set is there, the enthusiasm is there, the education is there, the good nature and teamwork and ethics are there. It’s an excellent place to grow and develop a business.”

Students ended the day with a capstone session on professional development and their first job.

Events like this and other initiatives from the Sioux Falls Development Foundation are helping match employers with the workforce they need, Mosleh added.

“I have not really seen anything like your organization here,” he said. “Your organization is very, very good and instrumental in getting, trying to get things off the ground. In a place like Silicon Valley, things have really happened organically, and they’ve already gotten off the ground. Nobody thinks about trying to get them off the ground now because they don’t really need to. It’s already reached critical mass. Here, you are a complete necessity. And I’m amazed by the energy and the passion that you guys have and how you’re spreading that through the community, how you are engaging people.”

If your business is interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at an upcoming Talent Draft Day event, please contact Denise Guzzetta, vice president of talent and workforce development, at or 605-595-4355.

To get connected to workforce development opportunities in the Sioux Falls area, visit

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Inaugural Talent Draft Day draws big response

Talent Draft Day, a first-time event from the Sioux Falls Development Foundation, got off to a strong start with its debut last week.

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