MITCHELL, SD - Jobs in the on-demand industry of cable, phone and internet are in high-demand; so much so that Mitchell Technical Institute has a new million dollar lab to help fill those positions.
The room full of cables, equipment and lights is where future South Dakota technicians are learning to keep businesses, schools and homes connected.
"Absolutely, it's cutting edge. What you see in this lab is what's being used today," Mitchell Technical Institute Telecommunications Instructor Michael Benjamin said.
Travis Williamson is in his final year at Mitchell Tech and has already landed a job nearly a month before he graduates.
"I actually just got a job in Sioux Falls and I had a few job offers," Williamson said.
"We're going to graduate 17; we have 33 job offers on the table right now with companies like SDN, Golden West and Long Lines down in Sioux City. Telecommunications companies across the state are looking for skilled workers," Benjamin said.
Because of that need, Mitchell Technical Institute paid about $200,000 for the equipment in the new lab to train students with real-world scenarios in the telecommunications industry. SDN Communications paid for the rest through a federal stimulus grant.
"We were having trouble finding qualified workers, as were our owner companies, the telephone companies of South Dakota. So part of this stimulus money is meant to retrain people to get people into jobs, into good jobs," SDN Communications Marketing and Communications Director Vernon Brown said.
The lab was built this spring almost all by students.
"What it has allowed us to do is to completely renovate the way we teach and what we teach as far as telecommunications is concerned," Mitchell Tech President Greg Von Wald said.
"I came here and didn't have any knowledge of it and in two years, I've learned almost everything there is to know," Williamson said.
And that's why students like Williamson are getting connected with jobs.