Sturgis hammers it home with machining collaboration

mandylin_atwdt_1_USEThe whirring of machines and high-pitched screech of cutting metal accompany five Sturgis Brown high school students as they attend their weekly Dual Enrollment class at Western Dakota Tech. The class is a collaboration between education and industry, and students at Sturgis Brown are the first to test it out. The program combines industry experience and hands-on learning through the Dual Enrollment program. Students earn college credits and get a feel for the machining industry while still in high school.

To complete the program, students spend one semester interning for 90 minutes a week at various Sturgis machining businesses and have a four-hour machining class at WDT each Friday.

“I like the hands-on work,” said Mandilyn Horst, one of the students in the program. “You get to see the product you’re making right when it’s done.”

Aside from the obvious benefit of enjoying a break from their normal high school class day, the students said they enjoyed the instructors at WDT, getting experience in a real work environment, and applying what they learn to their every-day lives.

“It gives me a good idea of what the job site is really like,” said student Aaron Adams. Not only does the program benefit students, it also gives local machining companies the opportunity for a larger selection of local employees.

Pat Kurtenbach, President of the Sturgis Economic Development Corporation, said, “Skilled machinists are extremely difficult to find and recruit so we decided to grow our own by partnering with the high school to attract the interest of students and parents.”

The students test out the industry and get a jump-start on their career, and the businesses have a hands-on role in developing the skills of those students. Those who are a good fit have the potential for full-time work shortly out of high school.

“The greatest export of our community is our children,” said Irving Stone, President of Bar-Sto Precision LLC., a participating business. “The benefit of this program is we get to keep the kids here where they can start their career, maybe raise a family, and stay local.”

Stone has been searching for this type of program since his relocation from California four years ago. He says the collaborative environment here in South Dakota is much different. According to Stone, leaders here aren’t afraid to step outside the box and support initiatives that make sense.

“It was a team effort,” he said. “We had the governor and his group of people who were willing to see the potential and the schools and businesses were very willing to work together. It was a community and state effort to make it happen.”

The “it” is a combination of two state actions. As part of the budget for 2014-2015, the South Dakota Legislature approved funding to allow high school students to take most state-supported college classes for just $40 per credit hour. At WDT, tools, books, and uniforms are covered by the Pathway to College and Career Success grant WDT received through Governor Dennis Daugaard’s vision for expanding dual enrollment opportunities.

The Sturgis students taking classes at WDT all recommended the experience to other students.

Horst passed along this advice, “Take every chance you get in high-school. It’s cheaper, and you get an early start.”

Leaders at Sturgis Brown are excited about the program and the potential for student success.

“This course focuses on rigor, relevance, relationships, and results,” Sturgis Brown High School Principal Jeff Simmons said. “We’re looking at the big picture by making sure students are building relationships with postsecondary schools and industry, and learning skills that will prepare them for the future.”

The program is off to a great start, with nothing but positive comments and excitement from all parties involved.

“When the kids are out of school and have jobs and say ‘this program really helped me,’ that’s when you know it worked,” Sturgis Brown Assistant Principal Don Lyons said.

WDT students celebrate Surgical Technologists Week

WDT students celebrate Surgical Technologists Week

Students at Western Dakota Tech were treated to a special breakfast this morning to celebrate National Surgical Technologists Week.

The celebration is spearheaded by the Association of Surgical Technologists and is recognized nationally. Across the country, hospitals and other healthcare facilities throw small celebrations to show appreciation for surgical technologists.

“National Surgical Technologists Week is a time of recognition for the hard-working technologists who work tirelessly from behind the mask,” said Tiffany Howe, Program Director for Surgical Technology at WDT.

As direct patient care advocates, surgical technologists play an important role in the healthcare industry. Surgical technologists work closely with surgeons, nurses, and other industry professionals. They are trained to maintain a sterile and clean environment during surgery to prevent the risk of infections. Surgical technologists have a direct impact on the success of surgery and patient outcomes.

Howe said, “Everything a surgical technologist does on a daily basis reflects a promise to our patients to respect, protect, and be an advocate for them. Our motto is ‘aeger primo’, the patient first.”

Job outlook for surgical technologists is favorable. The industry is expected to grow 30 percent from 2012-2022, which is much faster than average. Students can earn an Associate in Applied Science degree from WDT in two years. Surgical technologists earn a median pay of $20.09 per hour or $41,790 per year.

WDT named a 2015 Military Friendly School

WDT named a Military Friendly School for fifth straight year

Western Dakota Tech announced today that it has been designated a 2015 Military Friendly School for the fifth consecutive year.

The Military Friendly Schools designation is awarded to the top 15 percent of colleges, universities and trade schools in the country that are doing the most to embrace military students and dedicate resources to ensure their success in the classroom and after graduation. The methodology used for making the Military Friendly Schools list has changed the student veteran landscape to one much more transparent, and has played a significant role over the past six years in capturing and advancing best practices to support military students across the country.

WDT has services in place for the 111 enrolled students who classify as active or former service members. “WDT is dedicated to the success of our student veterans, and we take pride in the services we offer. It’s an honor to make this list for the fifth year in a row,” said Curt Lauinger, WDT’s Career Services Coordinator.

The survey captures more than 50 leading practices in supporting military students and is available free of charge to the more than 8,000 schools approved for Post-9/11 GI Bill funding. As in past years, the 2015 Military Friendly Schools results were independently tested by Ernst & Young LLP based upon the weightings and methodology developed by Victory Media with input by its independent Academic Advisory Board.

For more information about WDT’s commitment to attracting and supporting military student, contact Curt Lauinger at curt.lauinger@wdt.edu.