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.