The South Dakota Board of Education approved two new programs at South Dakota's technical institutes, as well as a facility bonding resolution during a regularly scheduled meeting Monday in Mitchell.
Approval of the bonding resolution will allow the technical institutes to proceed with Phase II of the Statewide Facility Plan. The resolution provides for $12.5 million from the Bonding Authority, with a total estimated cost of $14.6 million for the project.
Once completed, the project will create additional laboratory and equipment space for the Agriculture, Environmental Technology, and Heavy Equipment Operator programs at Lake Area Technical Institute (LATI) in Watertown.
LATI President Deb Shephard says the school has experienced record enrollment levels, with student numbers increasing for eight consecutive years. LATI's Ag program has 50 more students enrolled this year than a year ago, and 97 percent of the program's graduates stay in state and get jobs related to their studies. Graduates of LATI's Environmental Technology program average more than $17 an hour within six months of entering the workforce.
Approved today by the board was the Heavy Equipment Operator program, which LATI will begin offering in fall of 2013. Graduates of the program will be able to operate power construction equipment to excavate, move and grade earth, erect structures or pour concrete or other hard-surfaced pavement.
"The program builds off of our already successful Diesel Technology program and infuses a few elements from our Welding, Machining, Electronics and Aviation programs," Shephard said. "Basically, it gives our students one more option for a unique specialization."
A new program approved for Mitchell Technical Institute is Farm Power Technology. According to MTI President Greg VonWald, graduates of the two-year program will be able to gain employment at agricultural power equipment dealerships as specialized service technicians.
South Dakota's other two technical institutes are Southeast Technical Institute in Sioux Falls and Western Dakota Technical Institute in Rapid City. The four schools boast a combined total enrollment of more than 6,000 students.