by Sara Bertsch for the Mitchell Daily Republic, September 15, 2017
Mitchell Technical Institute has been awarded $400,000 and it’s an “opportunity beyond belief” for one instructor.
Gov. Dennis Daugaard announced Thursday that South Dakota’s four technical institutes will be given funding for equipment needed in Build Dakota-eligible programs. More than $860,000 in Future Funds went to the schools, and Mitchell Tech received nearly half.
The $400,000 will allow the welding and manufacturing technology and machining automation programs at MTI to purchase new equipment, specifically a CNC milling machine, according to instructor Gregg Thibodeau.
“The capabilities in those machines will allow us to do production work for some of our industry partners in town as well as the new generation controllers versus the old gen that I have now,” Thibodeau said.
The manufacturing program is among those eligible with the Build Dakota Scholarship program, which supports students entering high-need workforce programs to fill the state’s technical career fields.
The Future Funds grants will go toward specific programs in which student enrollment exceeds equipment capacity for the 2017-18 school year. For Mitchell Tech, that was exactly the case.
Thibodeau said students were “doubling up” on machinery, and with the purchase of new equipment students will gain more hands-on experience, increase course capabilities and allow for more in-depth instruction.
This is Thibodeau’s fifth year teaching at Mitchell Tech, and he said the new equipment is where, five years ago, he envisioned the program becoming, and he’s excited to see how the year unfolds.
“For the governor to understand the need that industry has for qualified people, and to put that money into us giving the next generation of students that skill, I can’t thank him enough for understanding how bad the state needs skilled people in this career,” Thibodeau said. “It’s a blessing.”
The grants come approximately one month after Daugaard kicked off the first workshop of his Workforce Development Initiative, focusing on South Dakota’s workforce needs.
And in a press release sent by his office, Daugaard said the grants will allow students to be taught on the latest machinery.
“These Future Fund grants will help ensure that students at our state’s technical institutes are being trained on the most up-to-date equipment — the kind of equipment they will be expected to use once they enter the workforce,” Gov. Daugaard said.