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Gov. Kristi Noem Praises State's Technical Colleges in 2021 State of the State Address

This is an excerpt from Gov. Kristi Noem's 2021 State of the State Address (as prepared) from Jan. 12, 2021, regarding South Dakota's Technical Colleges and workforce development.

"...South Dakota’s technical colleges have received national awards, attention, and funding for the high-quality programs they offer in key, growing industries. All four of our tech schools are in the top 4% of the country for upward mobility. Students who graduate from our colleges are fully equipped for high-demand, technical careers the moment they receive their diplomas.

A young woman named Vanessa is a student in the Licensed Practical Nursing Program at Southeast Technical College. She is a first-generation college student, and an incredibly hard worker. Vanessa is set to graduate this spring and already has a job lined up in our state.

Our technical colleges are full of stories like Vanessa’s. And South Dakota is investing in our students to expand these opportunities moving forward.

Last week, we made an exciting announcement regarding the future of the Build Dakota Scholarship. Together over the next 5 years, we will invest approximately $40 million to match students with high-demand career opportunities.

We also announced the creation of the PREMIER Scholarship, a needs-based scholarship endowment for our state.  Denny and PREMIER have already delivered a check for $50 million, and have pledged another $50 million going forward. I am asking you to allocate $50 million in one-time money to match this transformational gift.

The PREMIER Scholarship requires that students live and work in South Dakota for three years after graduation. Otherwise, the scholarship turns into a loan. The endowment for this critical scholarship fund needs $200 million to be self-sustaining into the future. Denny and PREMIER are getting us halfway there. Your action will get the fund to $150 million dollars. Together, let’s get it done.

In partnership with the Department of Labor, the technical college system also launched the South Dakota UpSkill program this fall. This program supports workers dislocated by COVID-19. UpSkill consists of 22 online certificate programs in high-demand fields, including business, healthcare, information technology, and manufacturing. More than 100 individuals are taking advantage of this assistance.

Workforce Development remains a top concern for South Dakota companies. Some businesses are tackling this concern by building their own Registered Apprenticeship training programs. In fact, 44 organizations have built Registered Apprenticeship programs since 2018. More than 700 South Dakotans are improving their skills through one of these programs.

For example, in Huron the Executive Director of Independent Health Solutions built a Home Health Aide Registered Apprenticeship program. This structured training and mentorship improved team morale and confidence. It led to less than 1% turnover, allowing for a 20% increase in the number of Home Health Aides on staff.

While Registered Apprenticeships are just one solution to workforce development, it lays a strong foundation for our future workforce and our state economy."

About Western Dakota Tech

Western Dakota Tech was established in 1968 and is the only technical college serving the western South Dakota region.

Western Dakota Tech offers programs in a variety of fields, including Business and Computers, Construction and Manufacturing, Energy and Environmental Technologies, Health Sciences, Legal and Public Services, and Transportation Technologies.

Ninety-nine percent of Western Dakota Tech's most recent graduates are working, continuing their education, or are enlisted in the military. [Placement information is derived from graduate surveys, faculty-collected data, placement surveys started six months after graduation, and the South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation. Overall placement rate is figured by: (responding graduates employed, continuing education, or in military service)/(responding graduates who are seeking employment). The number of program graduates are unduplicated by CIP code.]

Western Dakota Tech faculty, staff, and administration focus their efforts on helping students gain the skills and experiences they need to succeed. Through hands-on learning, internships, and industry partnerships, Western Dakota Tech students graduate ready to make a real and immediate contribution to their employers and to their communities.

For information about Western Dakota Tech, call (800) 544-8765 or (605) 718-2565 or send an email to Visit us on the web at

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