MTI to graduate 15,000th student458 graduates bank on school's 96 percent job placement rate.
By: Ross Dolan, The Daily Republic
There won’t be any balloon drops, new cars or trips to Tahiti when Kyle Uttecht graduates from Mitchell Technical Institute today at the Corn Palace, but the event will be special on two counts.
For Uttecht, 29, of Huron, graduation marks the beginning of a life of expanded possibilities for himself and Kaylee, his 6-year-old daughter. His graduation also marks a milestone for MTI. Uttecht will be MTI’s 15,000th graduate since the school opened in 1968.
Graduation ceremonies begin at 5 p.m. today. This year’s address will be delivered by Dusty Johnson, of Mitchell and chief of staff to Gov. Dennis Daugaard. The invocation and benediction will be delivered by Reece Yeadon, a student in the wind turbine technology program.
MTI graduated 48 students in 1969, the year of its first graduating class. There will be 458 graduates tonight.
“We keep track every year, and I knew we were close to 15,000,” said Julie Brookbank, MTI’s director of marketing and public information.
“Our system wasn’t very scientific,” she added with a laugh. “We set up our graduation list and simply counted down until we hit 15,000 and Kyle’s name.”
Many MTI students, like Uttecht, have been “non-trads,” or non-traditional students, who took stock of their lives and decided on a course change. He decided two years ago to take advantage of stimulus money available under the Workforce Adjustment Act and attend MTI’s outreach program in Huron. He took his first year of training in his hometown and this year completed his final semesters in MTI’s heating and cooling program.
He is among the first group of student to graduates from outreach programs in Huron and Yankton.
At 6 foot 1 and 265 pounds, the burly Uttecht looks the part of a football player, though he never played the game at Huron High School.
“I don’t think I was ready for college when I graduated from high school,” he said. “I was more focused on getting a paycheck.”
What followed was a loose assortment of jobs that included farm work, several years in Sturgis working for a general contractor, and work for a tree service.
“I was just trying different things. Then I had a kid and I felt like I needed to improve myself,” he said.
He has a job waiting at Curt’s Heating and Cooling in Huron, where he completed his internship and worked part-time over the past two years. Juggling his responsibilities has been difficult. He and his former wife share joint custody of their daughter.
Second-year heating and cooling instructor Jason Juhnke said Uttecht did well in the program.
“He was willing to work hard,” Juhnke said.
Uttecht and his classmates installed heating and cooling systems in a sitebuilt home and learned the basics of installing geothermal systems. More mundane jobs included learning how to service ice machines and walk-in coolers.
“We try to teach them as much as we can in two years,” Juhnke said.
Uttecht plans to do service work heating and cooling systems — jobs that typically start at $15 to $20 an hour, depending on the geographic region.
“It’s a really well-paying job,” Brookbank said. “And the number of available jobs is unbelievable. There are a lot of jobs available, and we find our graduates can have their pick.”
Placement percentages are not available yet, but many graduating students already have job offers, she said.
Brookbank said MTI’s job placement rate was 96 percent for 2011 graduates.
MTI’s future also looks bright.
“At the rate we’re going, we should hit the 20,000th graduate mark in another 11 years,” Brookbank said.