State Partners With Denny Sanford To Establish Tech School Scholarships

South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard today (December 17, 2014) announced that the state of South Dakota will partner with South Dakota businessman and philanthropist T. Denny Sanford to establish a full scholarship program for students entering high-need workforce programs at in-state technical institutes.

“The establishment of this scholarship will mean that each year hundreds of our young people will have the opportunity to enter high-demand fields without incurring debt,” Gov. Daugaard said. “The impact of this will be huge, not only for the students who receive the scholarship but for our entire state which has been faced with workforce challenges.”

T. Denny Sanford, owner of First PREMIER Bank/PREMIER Bankcard, is a well-known philanthropist and South Dakota business owner. Denny purchased United National Corporation, the parent company for the PREMIER organizations in 1986. Since that time, he has created more than 2,300 jobs within the state of South Dakota. To date, Sanford has donated over $1 billion dollars to organizations across the nation.

“I am extremely grateful for Denny’s generous contribution and can’t thank him enough for the investment he’s willing to make in our young people,” said Gov. Daugaard. “Denny, who has already contributed so much to South Dakota by creating thousands of jobs and giving so much of his own money to a number of organizations, is once again stepping up to making our state a better place.”

The Governor has committed to match Sanford’s donation of $25 million with Future Funds for the Build Dakota Scholarship Program. The $50 million is expected to provide 300 scholarships annually in each of the first five years. From 2020 on, an endowment will continue to award approximately 50 scholarships per year.

Those who are awarded with the scholarship will be required to stay in South Dakota to work in their field of study for three years. A board appointed by the Governor will be established to determine specific requirements and how the scholarship will be administered.

“Business leaders across South Dakota have told me that workforce is the single largest obstacle to our continued economic growth,” said state Economic Development Commissioner Pat Costello. “Some businesses have been unable to expand because of the lack of workers. Others have turned down business. This new scholarship will go a long way in addressing that problem.”

Information on the Build Dakota Scholarship program can be found at doe.sd.gov/builddakota.

Dual Enrollment helps students and South Dakota

The need for skilled workers is great. According to 2011 Skills Gap Report published by the Manufacturing Institute, 67% of respondents to a survey reported a moderate to severe shortage of available, qualified workers, and 56% anticipated the shortage to grow worse in the next three to five years. In addition, the survey indicates that 5% of current jobs at manufacturers are unfilled due to a lack of qualified candidates. These results underscore the tenacity of a worsening talent shortage that threatens the future effectiveness of the U.S. manufacturing industry.

WDT is addressing that shortage for skilled technical workers in a variety of ways, including offering Dual Enrollment opportunities for high school students so they can prepare more quickly for the growing number of technical careers. Part of WDT’s strategy is creating state-of-the-art classrooms and labs where students can learn with technology currently used in industry. WDT is using a portion of the Pathways to College and Career Success grant WDT received through Governor Dennis Daugaard’s vision for expanding dual enrollment opportunities to renovate some campus facilities.

WDT’s plans that would create better learning environments for students in multiple programs include:

  • Renovation of Collision Repair lab to create labs and classrooms for Electrical Trades, Plumbing, and HVAC/R
  • Renovations to Room ABCD and old bookstore into labs for Surgical Technology and Practical Nursing and conference room for industry partner meetings
  • Installation of windows so visitors can view classroom activity and floor-mounted electrical outlets to better enable students to use technology in classrooms in Wanbli Floor 2
  • Installation of windows so visitors can view classroom activity in Wanbli Floor 1
  • Renovation of clean room in Pharmacy Tech lab to better match facilities to industry
  • Renovation of Corporate Education office into Machining and Engineering Tech lab

These renovations and the broader impacts of WDT’s and South Dakota’s efforts to grow Dual Enrollment opportunities will help the state begin addressing its workforce problem. These efforts expose high school students to high-quality career and technical education experiences and help them understand what skilled careers are like and why they are the quickest path to better lives.

Collaboration between industry and education, both at the high-school and college level, are key to the success of this program. Those efforts have already begun. WDT has and will continue to invite counselors, principals, school boards, and other to campus so everyone understands the importance of Dual Enrollment courses that lower the cost of college for students and the time it takes to earn a college degree.

All those methods will prepare students to address South Dakota’s high-need workforce areas. The Dual Enrollment project will accomplish this by focusing its efforts on coursework that is directly related to high-growth career fields.

WDT has embraced a philosophy of offering programs that prepare students for career fields that are growing and in-demand in South Dakota and beyond. WDT monitors workforce trends before and after programs are started to make sure career opportunities will be available for students when they graduate with diplomas or Associate of Applied Science degrees.

In addition, WDT uses an advisory committee system to involve business and industry representatives in every WDT program. Each program committee meets with faculty and administration at least twice a year to provide feedback on curriculum, equipment, workforce trends, and other critical information that allows WDT’s programs to remain current and relevant.

Through campus improvements, collaboration between industry and education, and the continued dedication to student and industry success, WDT’s part in the state’s efforts to grown Dual Enrollment opportunities plays a large role in meeting the need for skilled workers in South Dakota and beyond.

Learn more about Dual Enrollment opportunities HERE.

WDT honors veterans

Western Dakota Tech honored veterans at the school with a ceremony at noon today in the WDT Commons area.

“With over 16% of our student population being either US military veterans or dependents of veterans, WDT serves a significant number of veterans on our campus,” said Curt Lauinger, WDT Career Services Coordinator. “It is a privilege to assist our student veterans while they pursue their educational goals at WDT in preparation for work in their chosen career.”

All of the 111 student veterans and 15 employee veterans were invited to attend the recognition ceremony. Each were presented with a US Flag lapel pin from WDT and a personalized thank you drawing from Horace Mann and Wilson Elementary students.

A tribute was also played during the short ceremony. Click here to view the presentation.

WDT was recently designated a Military Friendly School for the fifth consecutive year. The 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.  WDT has services in place for the students who classify as active or former service members.