Maher talks school district’s role in workforce development

Sept. 10, 2018

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

Tomorrow’s workers start in today’s schools.

And preparing students for future careers has been a key focus for Brian Maher, who became superintendent of the Sioux Falls School District in 2015. Maher received a bachelor’s degree in math education from Midland University in Fremont, Neb., and master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Nebraska, Omaha.

He has been a teacher of all levels of mathematics as well as a high school physics teacher and a varsity-level coach in football, basketball, soccer, and track and field. In addition to teaching and coaching, Maher served as an athletic director, assistant principal, high school principal and superintendent.

Maher serves on the board of directors for the South Dakota High School Activities Association, South Dakota Symphony Orchestra and Sioux Empire United Way.

Why is K-12 education increasingly in the spotlight in discussions of workforce development, both here in the Sioux Falls area and nationally?

I think it is directly related to K-12 being the pipeline for workers of the future. It is incredibly important that we prepare our students for their next adventure beyond the K-12 experience. Whether our students are going to be physicians or directly enter the world of work, we need to prepare them for their future. Also, we currently have more jobs than we have people to fill those jobs. In that environment, every student we have is crucial to our workforce dilemma.

You recently attended a national STEM conference. How will that experience shape the emphasis of the Sioux Falls district in preparing students for the future?

One piece of good news is we are moving in an excellent trajectory in the STEM area. There are two things specifically we are doing that should accelerate our productivity in this space.

First, at the elementary level we started three computer science immersion schools last year. This year, we will expand those offerings at two middle schools. This is significant because of the focus on computational thinking for our students. This “thinking” was really emphasized during my time in D.C.

Second, we are increasing opportunities for internships for our students at the high school level. The internships can be in any business or industry. We believe we will be providing many work experiences for our students to explore in all workforce areas – certainly in STEM areas.

Does the Sioux Falls School District have a strategic component that deals with workforce development?

We are committed to developing the critical thinking skills of our students. Part of that commitment is to make sure our students know what options are available to them as a future member of the workforce. We are currently working to help students and parents know what opportunities exist for their future. We put in a good amount of effort to have students experience the many opportunities that are available to them. Further, we do our best to help students be able to think critically. We believe the ability to think critically will keep them marketable as times and career paths continue to change.

How does the Sioux Falls Career and Technical Education Academy actively partner with companies and industries to maximize opportunity for students?

CTE is our gateway to workforce issues. Many of the internships we provide come through CTE. Further, in order to have the variety of internship opportunities we provide, we need to have a very engaged business and industry sector to turn to for those opportunities. In Sioux Falls, those opportunities are readily available. We are very fortunate to have the support available in our community in general – but also in our business and industries specifically. We have great partnerships in place – and we are always looking for more!

To see more workforce development strategies, read the latest edition of WIN: Workforce Information Now from the Sioux Falls Development Foundation.

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Maher talks school district’s role in workforce development

From computer science immersion to critical thinking skills, here’s how the leader of the Sioux Falls School District is preparing today’s students for tomorrow’s careers.

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