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Mitchell Tech president: ‘Industry wants our graduates’

Mitchell Board of Education, SD Board of Technical Education hold joint meeting

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The Mitchell Board of Education held a joint meeting with the South Dakota Board of Technical Education Wednesday on the campus of Mitchell Technical College.
Erik Kaufman / Mitchell Republic
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MITCHELL — There are a lot of new improvements at Mitchell Technical College.

That was the takeaway Wednesday at a joint meeting of the Mitchell Board of Education and the South Dakota Board of Technical Education, where a wide-ranging presentation from Mark Wilson, president of Mitchell Technical College, outlined current successes at the local technical school.

Those improvements included the scheduled construction of a new diesel power tech lab and technical lab space on the main campus of Mitchell Technical College, a project Wilson said he hopes will be ready to host students as early 2023, but possibly by the spring of 2024.

That project is the result of hard work by the school, its leaders as well as support from the South Dakota Legislature, which put $5 million toward the work that the school has matched.

“That’s where we got $5 million - from the state legislature. (The diesel power tech lab) is the main, number one priority,” Wilson told the Mitchell Republic following the meeting. “We matched that $5 million, so there will be $10 million to be put into that construction project on campus.”

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Wilson said the exact cost of the new structure will be known when bids come in for the project.

"We have a good ballpark figure, but when we get the bids we'll know where we're at," Wilson said.

The diesel power tech program has had to share working space with the school’s power sports program, and the new structure will allow for more dedicated space to a program that continues to feed a major agricultural industry throughout the region and beyond.

That building will be part of a larger capital improvement project that will include both the diesel power tech and technical lab shop space as well as a handful of additional buildings projected to be built sometime in the future. Drainage work will also be done to make way for the structure, which will also improve the curb appeal of the school.

“We’re looking (to do drainage work) that will clean up that campus area and make it very presentable as we recruit and bring in potential students to work with our industry partners,” Wilson said.

Terry Sabers, secretary for the South Dakota Board of Technical Education, said that the diesel power tech building is an excellent example of Mitchell Technical College staying ahead of the curve with an in-demand program that both benefits from and gives back the school’s industry partners.

“I think it’s great because there’s another high-demand area. We’re dependent on ag and value-added ag. That is the kind of thing that is going to be helping, along with Mitchell Technical College’s medical programs,” Sabers said. “They’re all high-demand, high-need and good-paying positions when the students get out.”

Some discussion at the meeting centered around recent support from the South Dakota Legislature, and Sabers said that is an example of the strong work being done at all the technical schools in South Dakota, including Mitchell Technical College.

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“The legislators all recognize the value that we’re bringing to the educational system,” Sabers said.

South Dakota Board of Technical Education member Brad Greenway asked about the relationship the school has fostered with industry partners, inquiring whether it was a result of Mitchell Tech pursuing those relationships or the partners coming to them. Wilson said the connection is more organic than that, being fostered by the continued close relationships that have formed over the years.

He singled out Clayton Dueter, vice president for enrollment services and the school faculty for cultivating the relationships that are as strong as they are today.

“I cannot say enough about how (Dueter) has built great ties and communicated with potential industry partners in that area. He’s done a great job,” Wilson said. “And again, credit to our program faculty who have done a great job, too, because the industry wants our graduates.”

The boards also heard about the Build Dakota Scholarship program, which has improved the ability of many students to attend Mitchell Technical College.

The scholarship, founded in 2015 through the philanthropic efforts of T. Denny Sanford, other donors and the state, provides full-ride scholarships to state technical colleges for students who qualify.

The scholarship supports tuition, fees, books and other required program expenses in eligible technical college programs. After graduation, those in the program are required to commit to working in South Dakota in their field of study for three years.

Mitchell Technical College has been on the forefront of promoting the program.

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Nick Wendell, executive director with the South Dakota Board of Technical Education, speaks Wednesday at a joint meeting of the board with the Mitchell Board of Education.
Erik Kaufman / Mitchell Republic

“(Mitchell Technical College) was one of the leaders in what that program looks like today,” said Nick Wendell, executive director of the South Dakota Board of Technical Education. “That’s true across all (South Dakota technical school) campuses, but Mitchell was out ahead of that on how to maximize those dollars.”

Sabers agreed.

“To watch that grow and get the businesses behind it — it basically doubles the number of free ride scholarships that people can get,” Sabers said.

More discussion on the diesel tech program is expected at the next regular meeting of the Mitchell Board of Education, which is scheduled for Monday, April 11 in Room 10 at Mitchell Career & Technical Education Academy. The Mitchell Republic will livestream the meeting, which is open to the public.

Erik Kaufman joined the Mitchell Republic in July of 2019 as an education and features reporter. He grew up in Freeman, S.D., graduating from Freeman High School. He graduated from the University of South Dakota in 1999 with a major in English and a minor in computer science. He can be reached at ekaufman@mitchellrepublic.com.
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