Written by Beth Wischmeyer for the Argus Leader
South Dakota’s four technical schools will receive $3.8 million from the state to purchase major equipment upgrades such as ultrasound machines and aviation engines, Gov. Dennis Daugaard announced Friday, January 3.
The money comes from the state’s Future Fund, which is used for economic or workforce development.
“A lot of times, technical education requires that you be trained on some pretty expensive equipment, and although you can get donated equipment or rely on what you already have, it’s certainly better to use something newer, more up-to-date, so that students will be prepared for what they’ll be working on after they graduate,” said Tony Venhuizen, the governor’s senior adviser.
Lake Area Tech in Watertown, Southeast Tech in Sioux Falls, Western Dakota Tech in Rapid City and Mitchell Tech in Mitchell each submitted lists to Daugaard’s office last year, detailing what they would like to buy.
Presidents of the technical colleges were told Friday morning which requests would be funded.
Mitchell Tech began offering a farm mechanics program last year but has faced high costs to get equipment, said Greg Von Wald, college president.
“We simply couldn’t do it,” he said. “You end up not being able to teach as effectively as you could if you had those types of things.”
The state grant will buy tractors and other farm equipment.
Mitchell Tech also will update its satellite communications program equipment, Von Wald said. Mitchell has the only such program in the nation, and the satellite communications industry has gone through tremendous changes in technology during the past several years.
Southeast Tech will buy more advanced equipment for its diesel, automotive and civil engineering programs, as well as an ultrasound machine for its diagnostic medical sonography program.
With time, equipment advances in all fields, said Jeff Holcomb, president of Southeast Tech. The grant will allow the tech schools to keep their equipment updated and match what students will see when they graduate.
“This is the governor recognizing that this is a need, recognizing how he can make a difference in the program by helping us fund some equipment,” Holcomb said.
Daugaard, who made the announcement of the grant in his column posted Friday on the state government website, said the money will help keep more of South Dakota’s students in state to work.
“Offering high quality programs, with state of the art equipment and training, is vital to the future of our state. Strengthening these programs gives our young people the opportunity to stay in the state in a high-demand field, and it gives our businesses new employees so they have the confidence to add jobs in South Dakota,” Daugaard wrote. “High quality technical education is not cheap, but it is valuable both to the individuals who receive the education and to the state as a whole.”