A Vermillion man will get a jump start on his career thanks to the Build Dakota Scholarship program and the willingness of a Vermillion company to invest in the education of its future skilled workforce.
MASABA, a manufacturer of bulk handling equipment for the mining, aggregate, and agriculture industries, is partnering with Build Dakota and Mitchell Technical Institute (MTI) to address its projected need for welders through participation in MTI’s Double Edge program. The Double Edge is a hybrid of the Build Dakota and MTI’s Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP). Under the program, a student’s education is jointly funded by Build Dakota and the sponsoring company. The student must maintain an academic standard to remain eligible, and commit three years of post-grad service to the company.
Lofton Covington will enroll in MTI’s Welding & Manufacturing Technology program this fall. It is one of thirteen MTI courses of study that are designated as high-need workforce programs by the Build Dakota Scholarship board, and students entering those fields are eligible to apply for funding under the program. Covington is a 2015 graduate of Vermillion High School.
“The rigors of the industries we serve, and the varied and high-tech nature of our manufacturing processes require that we have a highly-skilled workforce to meet the demands of our customers,” said Jerad Higman, president of MASABA. “In a tight labor market, quality people are hard to come by, so when the Double Edge opportunity presented itself, it was an easy decision to make this investment in Lofton and in our company”.
Build Dakota was created earlier this year out of a $25 million gift to South Dakota’s four technical institutes by philanthropist T. Denny Sanford. Over the first five years of the program, the equivalent of approximately 1,200 full-ride scholarships will be awarded to qualifying students in eligible academic programs. The state of South Dakota matched the Sanford gift, and those funds were placed in an endowment, which will continue to fund the Build Dakota program after the initial funds are invested in South Dakota’s future technical workforce.
Because of the existence of the WRP program at MTI – a program under which a company funds a portion of a student’s education for a post-grad commitment of employment with the company – the mechanism was in place for the creation of the Double Edge program. The outcome is that more students will benefit from the Build Dakota dollars, while participating companies gain the assurance of trained talent when the student graduates.
“MTI’s Double Edge and WRP are exciting programs for our students and employers. Participating in these programs will better position both the employer and the students for future opportunities”, stated Rita Nelson, Workforce Development Coordinator with Yankton Area Progressive Growth. “The sponsoring company plays an active role in mentoring, educating and building their qualified workforce. The student receives more than a valuable scholarship for an excellent education, they build a mentorship relationship and career opportunities. We are extremely grateful to MTI and MASABA for working together to amplify the impact of the Build Dakota Scholarship. This innovative partnership creates a highly-trained workforce ready to grow our regional economy and adapt for the future.”
According to Mark Gerhardt, MTI’s Vice President of Industry Relations, “in the five-year existence of the WRP program, we’ve had over 20 companies in seven different industries sponsor dozens of students who are now employed by those companies. Once the pipeline of talent starts to flow, the enthusiasm for the WRP grows, and most companies increase their level of participation. The rate of growth should be even greater with the Double Edge.”
In addition to participating in the Double Edge program, MASABA has contracted with MTI’s Corporate Education Division to provide non-credit training for existing employees in the areas of advanced welding and manufacturing economics.