Tea Area high school students learned more about the Build Dakota Scholarship Fund at an assembly Oct. 25.
South Dakota technical institute representatives and local business owners met with students to tell them about careers in technical fields and the opportunities applying for the Build Dakota Scholarship can offer.
“The purpose of the assembly was to open the eyes of TAHS students to the scholarship, as well as some of the career pathways in the tech school fields. We hoped students understood there are some outstanding programs at the SDBOR schools. Many of the programs have 100 percent job placement with well-compensated wages,” said principal Collin Knudson.
The Build Dakota Scholarship program began in 2014 with a $25 million donation from T. Denny Sanford and $25 million in future funds committed by Gov. Dennis Daugaard. According to the scholarship website, “Build Dakota aims to support students entering high-need workforce programs at South Dakota’s technical institutes to fill the state’s technical career fields with skilled professionals. The $50 million is expected to provide approximately 300 full scholarships annually in each of the first five years, beginning in the fall of 2015. From 2020 on, an endowment will continue to award approximately 50 scholarships per year.”
The Build Dakota Scholarship identifies nine areas in need of skilled workers – agriculture, automotive, building trades/construction, energy technician, engineering technician, healthcare, information technology/computer information systems, precision manufacturing and welding.
The first scholarships were awarded in 2015. Since 2015, at least eight scholarship winners have been from Tea.
Chellee Nemec, Southeast Technical Institute institutional advancement officer, said the Build Dakota Scholarship program is a way to fill in the workforce shortage in technical fields.
“There are more jobs open than students to fill those jobs. The way our economy is going, not only in South Dakota but nationally, is 57 percent of all careers are trending toward a technical field,” Nemec said.
Nemec and other technical school representatives wanted students to consider the options when deciding on what to do after graduating high school. While they noted they were not there to bash four-year schools, they wanted students to know that two-year technical degrees could get them a higher-paying job with less debt when they graduated from the program.
“Some of the highest paying jobs in the state are from two years of school. Most of our students are in school for two years and they’re making $65,000 at 20 years old,” Darren Shelton, Lake Area Technical Institute admission representative.
“The economy says that the need is in the technical field. Technical degrees are outpacing in salary those of bachelor and master’s degrees,” Nemec said. “Those that hold a technical degree in the state of South Dakota averaging over $63,000. Compare that to what your student debt will be.”
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