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South Dakota Leads the Way in Career and Technical Education

Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs provide students with the academic and technical training necessary to work in specific jobs such as a trade or craft. This includes programs such as welding, ranch management, dental assisting, bookkeeping, telecommunications, web programing and automotive technology. The Senate recently passed a resolution to highlight the importance of CTE programs across the nation.


In South Dakota, we are home to four high-caliber technical institutions that offer a range of certificates and two-year degrees: Lake Area Technical Institute, Southeast Technical Institute, Mitchell Technical Institute and Western Dakota Technical Institute. In 2017, Lake Area Technical Institute won the Aspen Institute Award for the best two-year campus in the nation. This year, Mitchell Technical Institute is a finalist for the award. All four campuses play a vital role in educating our students and contributing to the health of South Dakota’s economy.


Oftentimes, CTE programs partner with local businesses and community leaders to tailor their programs to meet the needs of the local economy. In South Dakota, we also have tools available to help provide students with financial assistance in exchange for working in South Dakota for a period of time following graduation. This includes the Dakota Corps Scholarship Program, which we created while I was working as governor, as well as BUILD South Dakota, a scholarship program specifically for technical education students funded by a donation from T. Denny Sanford.


According to the South Dakota Board of Technical Education, 84 percent of recent tech graduates stay in South Dakota. Additionally, more than 97 percent were “employed, pursuing further education or serving in the armed forces six to eight months after graduation,” according to a recent survey. There are also more than 750 CTE programs offered to middle and high school students across the state, with more than 30,000 students currently enrolled. 


With the economy in full swing, employers are looking to fill jobs of all skill levels, including highly-technical, highly-skilled jobs that CTE programs can help them fill. This leads to good-paying jobs for workers looking to support their families and thrive in the modern workforce.


Last summer, the president signed into law H.R. 2353, the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act. This law makes important updates to career and technical education to give both workers and students the skills they need to find high-skill, high-wage or in-demand jobs.


Among other things, it reauthorizes the Perkins CTE Act to encourage states, schools and local CTE providers to update education and job training. It will also help these entities make certain we have the tools and resources they need to remain competitive in the 21st Century. H.R. 2353 also strengthens partnerships with the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to promote collaboration between stakeholders so local businesses can better communicate their needs as education programs are being developed. I was pleased to support this effort

As our economy continues to grow and jobs are created, providing students with the skills they need to fill our workforce demands is critically important. This month, we pay a special tribute to the CTE programs across the state that play a vital role in our education system. They provide a crucial link between students, businesses, local governments and communities that will help us compete in a global economy.