SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Difficulty finding qualified employees is a major constraint on business growth nationwide, Gov. Dennis Daugaard said Thursday while launching a multi-state workforce development initiative meant to help address the issue.

The South Dakota Republican chose workforce as the central policy focus of his year-long chairmanship of the Western Governors’ Association. He said the initiative’s goal is to improve career opportunities for students, graduates and displaced workers.

“Things are going well in South Dakota, but still we do have some challenges, and we do have opportunities to improve,” Daugaard said. “Finding workforce is the key problem that’s faced by employers.”

Daugaard in June was elected chairman of the Western Governors’ Association, which is made up of 19 states and 3 U.S.-flag islands.

Daugaard said officials would share best practices, collect data and try to learn from each other ways to address the “skills gap” at a series of workshops in several states. He launched the push at a Thursday workshop in Sioux Falls that featured U.S. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, who said the country has nearly 6 million job openings that are going unfilled.

He said that education and business need to communicate so that education can to focus on skills that lead to jobs. Acosta asked the western states to participate in two initiatives President Donald Trump’s administration is pursuing to boost apprenticeships and address what Acosta called “excessive” professional licensing.

Acosta said there are many opportunities available outside of the four-year college system such as associates degrees and vocational education.

“We need great mechanics just like we need great doctors. We need great carpenters just like we need great lawyers,” Acosta said. “Many well-paying careers are available to those without a college degree.”

On licensing, Acosta said the cost and complexity creates an economic barrier for Americans seeking a job. He said unnecessary licenses should be eliminated and needed ones should be streamlined.