YANKTON, S.D. - Lonnie Pinkelman didn't really understand what all the fuss was about.
"It was nice to get a certificate from him," said Pinkelman.
Pinkelman is referring to South Dakota governor Dennis Daugaard, who visited Yankton, S.D., to celebrate the success of the state's work force initiative, and its graduates like Pinkelman.
"Especially with my kids to see it, you know it gives them an incentive: that you work hard, you know, things are going to happen."
The initiative helps workers see what kind of jobs are open, and what types of skills are needed in the marketplace.
"Whatever path they choose, they know at the end of the road if there might be a high likelihood of a job or a little lower likelihood that they might have to work a little harder," said Daugaard.
Daugaard says when he left school; he wasn't quite ready for the demands of his first job. That's why he's excited about the possibilities for those who now have national career readiness certificates. The on-the-job training allows employers to plug in the new graduates right away.
"We need to turn that work ethic into a skilled work force that matches up with the job vacancies in the skilled areas where we've got them," said Daugaard.
At first, all of the equipment looks daunting, but Pinkelman's teacher says that angst quickly fades. Students get to work hands-on with models for things like air conditioning, hydraulics and welding.
"Once you get them working hands on, they go through it, you see them get comfortable with it, you even hear them talking, you know just a few months ago we walked in hear and were going wow, now we're walking out of hear and have an understanding of it," said John Darcy, his teacher.
Pinkelman finished school in 1987. But, he went back to Mitchell Tech in August, taking classes during the day and working night shifts to support his family.
"It's just something that I knew I had to do," said Pinkelman. "I used to work for a manufacturing plant for sixteen and a half years, so I kind of knew machines, but now to learn the brains of it. That's kind of what I was excited about."
Now, he's getting ready to apply his lessons learned in school in industrial maintenance.
(This story is by KITV reporter Jacob Peklo.